Text: John 20:1-18 (the empty tomb)
Easter, resurrection, and Jesus all featured prominently in the Edmonton Journal last Tuesday. Paula Simons’ front-page column wasn’t about Jesus of Nazareth, though. It was about McJesus, otherwise known as Connor McDavid, the captain of the Edmonton Oilers.
Simons’ column suggested that in Edmonton this spring, resurrection hope lies in our dreams of hockey glory!
I liked Simons’ column. Not only did it capture the feverish excitement that has gripped Edmonton since the Oilers secured their first playoff berth since 2006; it also illustrated how many of us imagine resurrection.
For many of us, resurrection looks like a hockey arena filled with rapturous fans who cheer wildly after a game-winning goal, or a city whose streets are clogged by party-goers after a Stanley Cup victory.
But in contrast to this, the first Easter was a quiet affair experienced by only a handful of people.
In the gospel account of the first Easter we just heard, the only person who experiences the Risen Christ is Mary Magdalene; and the only other resurrection appearances found in John are a brief appearance to the disciples in a locked room that same evening, and then one week later to this same group.
Many of the events of Jesus’ life had occurred in public– when he turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana; when he fed five thousand people with a few loaves and fish on the shores of Galilee; when he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as thousands shout ‘Hosanna;’ and when he was sentenced and executed on Good Friday before crowds who screamed ‘crucify!’
Easter is different. Only Mary sees Jesus on Easter morning and only a handful of his friends see him appear later that evening and one week later.
For centuries, the church has celebrated Easter with as much volume as a frenzied hockey crowd. It has done so for good reasons — to celebrate the victory of life over death, of hope over despair, and of good over evil. But this morning I focus on the quiet nature of the first Easter.
I took the title of this reflection — “He arose in silence” — from a line repeated in our closing hymn, “He Came Singing Love.”
I love the fanfare of Easter. But for me, new life in Christ is often found in private moments as when one stumbles into self- acceptance after grief; into recovery after addiction; or into repentance after hitting rock bottom.
On Good Friday, the friends of Jesus hit rock bottom. Their Palm Sunday dreams of a new King David were crushed with the cruel execution of their leader. Then on Easter Sunday, they discovered new life with the Risen Christ. But this new life was not what they had expected. Instead, this new life revealed a love so deep that it allowed them to continue their ministry of healing and hope without Jesus. It revealed a truth so solid, it allowed them to create beloved communities that flourish almost 2,000 years later, including here at Mill Woods United.
Sometimes, an Easter moment can be as loud as the joy of a Stanley Cup victory in a sports-crazed city like Edmonton. But much of the time, Easter moments are as quiet as the tender exchange between a grief-stricken Mary Magdalene in a garden outside of an empty tomb and her friend, the Risen Christ.
So this spring as we continue to be amazed by the on-ice miracles of Connor McDavid and his teammates, let us add to the chorus of “Go Oilers, Go!” some joyful whispers of our own: “Christ is Risen! Risen Indeed!”
Hallelujah, and Amen!