Monday, April 1, 2002

Easter: John 20:1, 11 - 18


Only the women remained behind after the world collapsed
Only a few crows picked over the refuse left behind
By the crowds on a hill that was muffled in perpetual gloom
As God lay dead in a borrowed grave.
The whole world lay silent and still in a shroud of death.
No child laughed, no bird sang, no one even quarreled.
It was as silent and still as that moment before creation
When the earth was without form and void and darkness
Covered the face of the earth, before God had said,
"Let there be light."

The heavy leaden overcast sky did not even permit
A shadow to play over the sunken corpse of the landscape.
The veil of the temple hung listlessly to one side
ripped and shredded and a slight breeze moved it slightly
Rattling against the columns where once was enshrined
the Holy of Holies.
The mercy seat lay empty and exposed.
God was not there.

Only the weak remained behind after the world collapsed.
The authorities had gone home.
Back to their barren seats of power,
Back to their struggles against each other,
Their interminable bickering and jockeying for position,
Back to the things that really mattered.
It had been an interesting diversion,
but who was this fellow anyway?
A disturber of the peace . . .a rabble rouser . . .
blasphemer, some said,
But certainly no one of any real importance.
An itinerant from some dusty little hovel of a place
That had gained some small degree of local notoriety.
Definitely not a contender.
Nazareth? Nothing of any value had ever come from there.
The whole incident would be forgotten in a few days.

(Interesting, though, about this new alliance
of Pilate and Herod.
Politics make strange bedfellows,
It will be of great interest to the power brokers
To watch how this develops.)

Only a few janitors remained behind
to scrub the blood off the pavement,
To put the tables and chairs back in order
For the next week's round of business and activity.
Off in a distant part of the city a party was in progress
And a soldier exhibited a seamless robe to his friends
That he had won in a lottery two days earlier.

Only those without hope remained behind
after the world collapsed.
The disciples had all fled, the "Official Twelve", that is,
Only a couple of timid ones crept out of the darkness
One of whom we have heard nothing before
And another who, because of fear of the authorities
Had always remained out of sight, unknown to anyone
who might have challenged them.
But those who had gambled on the success of this enterprise
On the fulfillment of this mission
Who had counted on inheriting places of honor and prestige
In the new Kingdom . . . .these had all gone home
Or fled into hiding.

What point could be gained in sticking around now
when all was lost!
What practical reason could remain,
What possible good could obtain
From remaining behind in this God-forsaken place
When the whole miserable business had ended
in complete failure.
When hope had ended in total humiliation and defeat.
The smell of it, the taste of it, the sound of it
Rankled their souls like hot gravel
Lay on their tongues like ashes, like broken pot shards.

Only the women, the weak, those without hope
Remained behind after the world collapsed.
Waiting, waiting, for what?
With nothing to console them but their sorrow.
That curious emptying out of the soul
That comes after endless weeping.
The loss of hope that somehow, somehow,
Purges, cleanses, purifies the mind.
When there are no resources left
No strategies remain. Every last penny is spent.
Where might we have been?
There was certainly no thought that
there might have been anything more.
The events of the past week had left them drained
and exhausted.
What kept them there, clinging to the foot of the cross
After everyone else had gone.
Weeping beside a silent tomb?

* * * * * * *
Only love.
It is only for love that anyone remains behind.
Only love that doesn't calculate the cost,
the size of the loss
Or regroups to decide on the next move.
Love, that has its own internal logic.
That knows nothing of sensibility, or power,
or playing the odds.
Love that remembers.
Love that clings to the lingering smell, the taste
That still feels the touch of a gentle hand,
Still stirs to the sound of a voice
that even yet vibrates in the air.
Love, that still is warmed by the memory of a smile,
A certain gesture, a funny little tune that was hummed.
Only love that still clings to the warm moist earth
Of a freshly covered grave.

* * * * * * *
Sometimes, early in the morning
After a storm has passed the night before
There is a strange sense of peace.
Instead of looking haggard and heavy-lidded
After a night of fitful or no sleep
The world looks calm and rested.
Dawn creeps quietly into the streets of town
And the trees stir gently.
There is a clean fresh look to everything.
The earth has a kind of hum
And the clouds are first tinted dark purple, then lavender
and pink streaked with flecks of gold
And the air is soft and filled with a fragrance of blossoms
and aloe and myrrh and spices.
Then the miracle, the incredible
The incalculable, the unbelievable.
At first, it was something . . not . . .quite . . .right.
Something out of place.
She was probably not quite alert,
not noticing things too closely,
Still spent and exhausted from the night before.
But faithfully, came to pray once more, to keen once more,
To lovingly anoint the body once more.
But yes, she saw rightly, the tomb lay open.
A stranger, two strangers, something familiar
Uncomprehending and suddenly fearful,
"If you've taken him away . . ."
"MARY", her name!
Turning . . .slowly . . . around,
Looking up, a sudden flash of recognition.
The heart wells up into the throat, her mouth goes dry,
She catches her breath. "Rabboni, rabboni!"
Her beloved friend.
The one who had lifted her out of her misery.
The one person in all the world who had looked
past her brokenness Into her heart.
Her friend, her healer, her savior.

She was so confused she hardly remembered
what he said to her as they stood there briefly together
in the garden by the empty tomb.
But spurred on by the urgency of his command
She left to find the other disciples
Moving slowly at first, still overwhelmed with the emotion
the love, not yet quite knowing
but hope and joy welling up and spilling over
And something more, something new, something
Never before experienced.
Recognition giving birth to an awareness
Deeper, deeper, than anything else she had ever known.
Some incredible new thing was growing inside her.
She hurried on.

And like an island that is born from within the depths of the sea
when on the surface of the water there is first only a faint stirring
but deep below on the ocean floor
the sand and rock and shell stir slightly
from a low rumble in the bowels of the earth
and the crabs and fish and sea animals
scuttle quickly out of the way
as suddenly a fissure appears
and a plume of lava shoots up from the ocean bed
and the earth heaves and strains
and pushes a mass of molten rock and lava from its womb
that like an inverted avalanche rumbles upward
from the depths and the sea foams and churns
and with a mighty blast the mass bursts forth
from the water and explodes upwards towards the heavens
before falling back into the sea
and an island is born.
A new creation!

She's running now!
And all the hope of all the ages
All of history and all of prophecy is moving along with her.
All the creeds of all the councils,
All the art of all the ages
All cathedrals
All the anthems of choirs
All the stained glass windows
All candles, all incense, all Easter lilies
All Christmas trees,
All the blown glass gold globes.

She's flying now.
Her feet scarcely touch the ground
And with her heart pounding so that she can hardly breathe
and her robes and hair flying out behind her
she bursts into the room where the disciples are gathered
and with a gasp of joy and exaltation,
"I have seen the Lord" . . . . ."I have seen the Lord!"

* * * * * * *
At an earlier time he had said,
"I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
that Thou has hidden these things from the wise and understanding
and revealed them to babes."
and now, at the time of his exaltation,
To whom did Jesus first appear?
Who was entrusted with the only direct, personal commission
Of the news of the resurrection?
He didn't summon the authorities.
He didn't stride triumphantly into the temple
or send word by official courier.
There were no trumpets or fanfares for the populace.
But instead, he appeared to the weak one, the helpless one,
The one without personal honor or power or dignity,
The one who had no hope in herself.
The one who had remained behind.
The sensual one.
The one who could see only
with the eyes of love.
Only love . . . .can see love.

The Lord is Risen.
Christ is Risen.
He is Risen indeed.