Easter Reflections

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Easter Morning By Cara B. Hochhalter

I offer the image above and the reflection below on Easter with hopes that it can speak to people on both sides of the Pacific.  The leaping spirit of Easter transcends religious affiliation.   This spirit can be presented in image as well as word.  In creating a relief or block print, light and dark are used to create the composition.  You cannot have one without the other.  As a means to make multiple impressions, woodblock printing has a long history in China and was well developed in the Tang Dynasty (630-930) more than a thousand years ago.  The light areas are carved out with a cutting tool and the raised areas are rolled with ink.  Paper is laid on top and burnished with the back of a spoon.  When the paper is pulled off, the image appears backwards from the way the design was cut, forcing us to see in new ways.  I love the play of light and dark and how one defines the other.  In this image of Luke’s version of the Easter story…three of the women kneel at the opened tomb.  Two angels stand inside the entrance that is flooded in Holy Light…a miracle has happened. Even the trees and flowers seem to dance in excitement!

LEAPING

An Easter Morning Reflection

For People of All Faiths and No (Institutionalized) Faith

The Rev. Cara Hochhalter, Charlemont Federated Church, Massachusetts

   My sister and I took ballet lessons where we grew up in Michigan and this is where we learned to “leap.”  My sister remembers this graceful movement as being called the grawn jeté.  From across the diagonal of a large ballet room, we would line up and take turns leaping the length of the room.  This meant taking three little running steps, gracefully, and then flinging our legs out in both directions like the splits in mid-air, and then landing, also as gracefully as possible.  This would be repeated until you couldn’t go any further.In the summer-times, my sister and I found a wonderful place to practice our leaping along the shores of Lake Michigan.  We knew sandy beaches where few people came.  If we went to the very edge, where the waves lapped the shore and the sand was hard, you could leap barefooted for long distances. Only the seagulls wondered why we were trying to fly.

A prayer:  Surely, O God, this is a day for singing our Alleluias and for leaping!  For even in the midst of question and mystery, we sense the more-ness to the story and the possibility of Good News!  Wrap us into this story that we may participate in its greatness.  Amen.

It may be surprising to some that there are different versions of the resurrection story.  In Matthew it is just the two women, two Mary’s who go to the tomb.  No spices are mentioned.  An earthquake rolls away the stone and there is only one angel who appears to them.  The women are told to go spread the word and they do, with great fear and joy!

In the Luke version, it is written that women who had prepared spices went to the tomb.  They saw two men in dazzling white and they go out to tell the eleven disciples.  The women were named, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and there were other women, too.

In John’s version, it is only Mary Magdalene who goes to the tomb.  She tells Peter and some other disciple and they return.  While Mary is weeping, she sees two angels and then the figure of Jesus appears whom she thinks is the gardener.

In the Mark version, it was three women: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome (a friend of Jesus) who bring spices to the tomb.  They see one man dressed in white, presumed to be an angel, who tells them that Jesus is not there but they will see him in Galilee and to go tell the disciples.  In this version, they go out in amazement but Mark writes that they don’t tell anyone and the story ends.  There is a second Mark ending that many scholars believe was added at a later time….

How lovely it is that women play such a crucial role in all of these Easter stories.  Women were often neglected, not even named in Biblical stories, yet here they are daring to go to the heart of the situation, witnessing both the violence at the cross and the miracle at the tomb. They dared to go and see with their own eyes, they dared to go beyond the stone…and it was surely a leap of faith.

In Mark’s minimal writing style and to-the-point urgency, the women flee, too afraid to tell.  It makes me wonder…if these women were not going to tell, someone surely needed to.  Would we?  Would we tell the good news, and what would this good news be?

It seems to me that Jesus died because he refused to compromise a kind of love that came from his connection with the Holy.  He refused to compromise his deep love for God and for all life, especially those who were vulnerable to the powers of the day.  Although this way of living was seen as threatening to the authorities, it is this compassionate lifestyle that has inspired us across generations.

The resurrection story is an affirmation of life.  The Greek word that has been translated “resurrection” comes from the root, to continue.  All versions of the story say that Jesus was not only not dead …but that he continued.  He may continue in different ways for each of us.  Certainly he continues through his impact in the lives of people who have been following his way of love, forgiveness and compassion for more than two thousand years.

Easter joy has a depth that goes to the root of our being.  We are fully made by a Divine Creator that yearns for our wholeness.  We also are challenged not to compromise this way of being in the world.  Easter joy allows us to embrace a freedom from the fear of death that can enable us to live this faith…and our lives… to the fullest.  Easter joy affirms life itself!

I cannot dance, O Love, unless you lead me on.
    I cannot leap in gladness unless you lift me up. 
    From love to love we circle, beyond all knowledge grow,
    For when you lead we follow, to new worlds you can show.

(Based on the writing of Mechtild of Magdeburg, a thirteenth century poet, adapted by Jean Janzen and put to music by Alice Parker in her new Melodious Accord Hymnal, 2010.  Used by permission.)Each of us finds ways to live into this Easter joy.  To discover our own ways of loving the Holy, of looking for the Sacred in all that surrounds us as well as in the lives of our neighbors.  We live the Easter joy by serving others with kindness, loving and forgiving deeply and making peace in our own place as well as in the world.

As I remember those joyful leaps on that sandy beach— with the waves splashing at my feet, filled with the sounds of waves and wind and seagulls overhead; it defines for me, Easter joy!  Even in our humanness, we can soar with an Infinite Love that turns the world upside down.  Amen.  

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