by the Rev. Jim Purdy, Assisting Priest

“When the Sabbath was over…..”
(The Gospel according to Mark 16: 1-8)

jim purdy (communion)

The Rev. Jim Purdy serves at the Altar during our Easter morning Holy Eucharist.

According to the earliest gospel account, three women who were close to Jesus took spices to his tomb on Sunday morning to anoint his body, as was  customary.   Along the way, they wondered who would roll away the heavy stone from the entrance to the tomb. To their surprise, they arrived to see the tomb already opened and a young man sitting inside, dressed in a long, flowing white robe, the conventional garb of an angel. Sensing their fright at his presence, the angel reassured them, “Do not be alarmed! Do not be afraid! Fear nothing!”  He explained that Jesus had been raised, lifted up, taken elsewhere. “He is not here. Look, there is the place where they laid him.”

Mark writes that, in response to these words, the three women “went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

That’s the end.  In the earliest manuscripts of the earliest gospel narrative, the story ends there.   The women fled, for they were afraid.

*   *   *

Easter doesn’t begin with the peal of trumpets and a profusion of lilies, rabbits and chocolate eggs. It begins with terror, with being afraid. Easter is about facing down fear and breaking free.

Everybody is fearful, terrified of some public or private demon, some terrible unnamed fear that gnaws away even the midst of joy, some cloud that hangs overhead or in the recesses of our spirit.  It is fear that not only holds us together but keeps us from being whole.

The most intractable threat to our sense of wellbeing and purpose lies within us. The demon that most cruelly terrifies us is the one that lives inside us, in our minds, in our hearts.

“I’m not good enough,” we say to ourselves. “I don’t have the skills I need, or the credentials, or the commitment.  I’m not consistent enough as a parent, or devoted enough as a spouse, or disciplined enough as a student, or productive enough at work.”

The truth is, of course:  perhaps we are not. Perhaps we are not the people we could be, or should be, or can be. And we know it.

So there we are, in what the ancient sages called a dark night of the soul. There we are, in a tomb of the imagination constructed by fear and reinforced by failure.

There we are, ready for Easter. Easter life begins when we stop being afraid of what we do know and afraid of what we don’t know.

*   *   *

“Who will roll away the stone for us?”

No one will roll away the stone for us. You will roll yours, and I will roll mine.  We will roll away our own stones.

Whatever needs to be done in my life, it is I who need to do it. Whatever needs to be done in your life, it is you who need to do it. Easter is about facing down fear and breaking free.

What does rolling away a stone look like?  It looks like the freedom that lies and lives beyond fear. It looks like taking a risk and making a move.

It’s telling ourselves the truth about what’s hidden in the dark. It’s asking another person to listen. It’s doing whatever we must do to break free.

It’s going back to school; going back to work; joining a gym; joining a Twelve-Step group; moving in together; moving into one’s own place. It’s applying for a marriage license; filing for divorce; starting classes; stopping taking lessons; making the call; canceling the appointment. It’s doing whatever it is we are to do.

Easter isn’t about life mysteriously becoming better or magically becoming fine. It’s about the deep dark fear within. It’s about facing down that fear and breaking free. I can do this. You can do this.  We can do this.

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