by Rev. Joan Kessler
What does resurrection mean to you this Easter of 2021? When you consider the year that has ben, we have done a COVID liturgical lap and are at our second Easter online and out of the building. The story of the empty tomb that we celebrate today… how does it reach you? Perhaps you readily identify with the women we heard read of in Mark’s gospel… they went to attend to Jesus body as was custom…their biggest concern at that moment was who would roll the stone away from the cave’s entrance. But they found no body that morning and a stranger sitting where they expected to find Jesus, proclaiming the news He is not here, he is risen. They are filled with awe and terror all at the same time.
We might be thinking of all the empty space moments from the past year, as we adapted to COVID and its restrictions. The places of loss and of longing for what we used to know, the people we used to see and embrace. For some of us, it has been a most anxious and fearful time. This past week, in conversations with friends and family members from other communities where COVID is rampant, I was struck by how different my experience has been and so very grateful. It gave me a renewed vigilance that the virus is still very much with us and we cannot relax our protocols just yet.
I have been reflecting this week on business of resurrection. We can contemplate that empty space where Jesus once lay and we can make up our own minds about its meaning. But this year, I am thinking of resurrection as a verb in a present tense kind of way rather than a one-time phenomenon. I found something that might help.
Naomi Shihab Nye may or may not be a household name to you. Shihab Nye is a poet, songwriter, and novelist, born to parents of Palestinian and American heritage. In the late 1970s she and her husband were on their honeymoon in South America. They were robbed in a violent incident on a bus that saw one fellow passenger killed. They were in a foreign land with no money, no identification. They were moved by the kindness of strangers. While her husband went off to find travellers checks for them to get by with, Naomi wrote the following epic poem entitled Kindness:
Before you know what kindness is/you must loose things/feel the future dissolve in a moment/like salt in a weakened broth.
This we know as truth. To experience loss, grief and uncertainty about the future befalls all of us, at one time or another. You may also recall acts of kindness that were offered to you from friends or families or maybe even complete strangers. They extended loving compassion that met your greatest need at the moment. When we are confronted with harsh realities, when fear threatens to overtake us, kindness enters and becomes part of the landscape. It is then and only then that kindness makes any sense according to Naomi. The giving and receiving of kindness gets you moving again, it ties your shoes and gets you out the door to get the mail and buy bread. Only kindness raises its head/ from the crowd of the world to say/ it is I you have been looking for,/and goes with you everywhere like a shadow of a friend.
Being kind all the time is not humanly possible… not one of us is perfect in that regard… we all have moments of hurt and frustration… when someone blocks the milk section at grocery store, taking seemingly forever to make their choice and you must wait patiently and give them adequate space because its COVID times… and you have to line up to check out and you just wonder what it was to get groceries in the old days of pre-March 2020… did we actually stand closer to other human beings or are the lines on the floor just tricking us into thinking we are further apart? I wonder… but I remind myself that kindness at the grocery store goes a long way, because we are all just doing the best that we can.
This poem I share with you makes kindness into a practice… one that chooses life over death every time… it transforms fear into something good and useful… I was struck by the Easter imagery in our poem this morning… kindness is the one we have been looking for… this is our empty tomb moment… this is the foundation of how we can practice resurrection. To be kind to one another this COVID Easter is like wearing a mask… it is the golden rule’s finest moment to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Today we celebrate the Easter event of Jesus’ resurrection as something not to decide but rather something to practice. Kindness is a powerful medicine to those who know fear as the women of our story would attest to as they merely intended to prepare Jesus’ body for burial and found it missing. Practicing resurrection, choosing life over death, brings the mystery Easter to my living this day. Because when we are kind, we live as Jesus did. It cost him his life; it is not without sacrifice. But that is the whole point. Resurrection is demanding; it is unpredictable. We think we know how the story ends but we have the opportunity to keep writing it, one act of kindness and compassion at a time… this is our work, dear ones.
Happy Easter to you all and Amen.