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While it was Still Dark…

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…”

That’s how John begins the story of Easter—while it was still dark.

I tend to be an early riser, usually earlier than the breaking of dawn. It could very well be my favorite time of day—it’s quiet, peaceful, and full of promise, the unpretentious stirring of potential for what the new day might bring.

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…”

We’ve been shut down and shut in because of this coronavirus pandemic for a year now. More than 550,000 people have died in the United States alone because of this disease. And we have yet to emerge fully into the light of a new day from the darkness of this pandemic.

This has been a dark time, indeed—but not because everything has been bad. To the contrary, darkness can sometimes provide the impetus for the most compelling insights, the medium in which seeds germinate and eggs hatch, the stillness that is sometimes necessary for the fragility of something new to emerge.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene became the first witness of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and thus became the “apostle to the apostles”—she’s the one who is sent to tell the others what has happened.

“The Resurrection,” Donald Jackson

John places this moment not in a graveyard but in a garden, and the new day about to break in this story is the dawning of a new creation. Among the many hints of this are the otherwise strange words the risen Jesus speaks to Mary.

“Do not hold on to me,” he says.

Do not cling to all that you’ve known before; do not cleave to the old patterns of relationship; do not recall only how things were in the past because this is the beginning of something new—a new dawn, a new creation, a new life.

No wonder John sets this scene not in a graveyard but in a garden.

No wonder Mary at first thinks Jesus is the gardener—in some vital ways, she was actually correct. The risen Jesus is not only the gardener but also the first fruits of God’s garden of new life.

Easter is not a ghost story.

We do not worship a resuscitated corpse.

Easter is the promise every gardener comes to cherish at this time of year: from the darkness of mulch and soil, new life will spring up.

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.”

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

“Noli Me Tangere (Don’t Hold On to Me),” Graham Sutherland

Comments

  1. Jay,

    This is beautiful. I am glad your spirit is so alive and your mind so graceful and articulate.

    Happy Easter!

    David

    Sent from my SO gay, socially distant, Jewish iPhone

    >

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