They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid him.
Every spring preachers bump their heads up against the Easter Tomb. Or, at least, I do.
As if I was trying to solve it. As if the stone were still in place and I needed to roll it away one more time. Easter, though, is not a problem. Not mine. Not yours. It’s a mystery. And mysteries in the Church are not only signs of life but ways of living.
I think it’s why this particular day finds people dressing up in bonnets and flowers or wearing a new tie as if you were (as indeed you are) a new creation in Christ. It’s like saying Easter is something you have to walk around in, something you need to wear, like a heart on your sleeve.
As a young mother, I used to lay out my children’s Easter clothes on Holy Saturday. I’d pull the dusty laces from my son’s Buster Brown shoes, and wash them. I’d iron their clothes and dress their empty baskets with ribbons, little knowing I was standing in a long line of Easter dressers.
The earliest Christians prepared white robes for the newly baptized to wear at Easter. They believed you put on Christ when you entered the waters of Baptism. They believed the glory of Christ was something you wore, like eternity on your skin. Like something you could trust forever, too, a promise that would never let you down or leave you alone. A promise that made you shine.
We wear today, and every day of our lives, the glory of Christ. We wear his resurrection. It is our uniform. We are united and formed as one in Christ. It’s why some people call Baptism a christening, like saying you’re in Christ forever after. And Christ will never let you go, even in death. It’s why what you do matters. Because when people see you, they see a part of Jesus the Risen Lord, and people need to see Jesus eastering in you. They need to see you in Christ, and Christ in you.
Like Mary Magdalene, though, we can find ourselves worrying we’ve lost Jesus or misplaced him or that something or somebody stole him from us somewhere along the way. I’m guessing that’s because we imagine Easter is only there for us in seasons of joy, and want to keep the Risen Lord in the joyful box, in the box where we store our Easter clothes.
But remember this: when Mary Magdalene said, They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where to find him, she was certain she’d lost her Lord — she had every reason to feel that way — and yet he was standing right in front of her, the one she was talking to. In her uncertainly and in her grief, Easter was right there beside her. This tells us Jesus cannot be contained or denied by us. Easter has broken the bonds of death. Easter has trampled down the world’s limitations and our own.
In every sorrowful turn, the Risen Lord is making a new creation. And in every joyful turn, the Risen Lord is also making a new creation. Every day of your life, Jesus is lifting you into the hope of glory.
And according to Emily Dickinson, Hope is the thing with feathers. In other words, hope comes with the force of wings and liberation.
When my son was in kindergarten, his teacher came up with the bright idea of giving every child in her classroom a little chick one year. His sister Grace got word of it and begged to have one too. And so not knowing anything about raising chicks, I asked the teacher if she had extras.
For all of Spring Break, we hosted two chicks in a cardboard box in our kitchen. My children loved them. Their friends loved them. Even I thought I might love them if they’d stay put. It didn’t take long, though, for me to feel those chicks didn’t belong in that box or in my house. What happened was this: they figured it out, too. They felt the same way. One morning I came into the kitchen to find the pair of them had jumped the box on the hunt for new life all over my house.
I share with you the memory of those chicks not because they are signs of spring or new life. They are. But I remember them because they jumped the box. You see, like us, they were made for green grass and sunshine, for life and freedom. They were made to want more than anyone could give them. And so are we.
Life in Christ has “feathers” — has the hope of risen life. Until Jesus rose again from the dead, death contained life. But now he is risen, and the glory of life has jumped the ancient boundaries of death and despair. Now he is risen, and we are forever living in his new creation.
In words from Frederick Buechner, said today as an Easter benediction, Take heart, even at the unlikeliest moments. Fear not. Be alive. Be merciful. Be human. And most unlikely of all: Even when you can’t believe, even if you don’t believe at all, even if you shy away at the sound of his name, be Christ.