Thursday, April 28, 2011


A quiet hour in the church preparing for Easter. Open the doors, seep the steps. Putting the vacuum out of sight. Emptying the trash. And changing all the colors from Lenten purple to Easter white. Find my white alb. My wool woven New Mexico stole.
A couple from Michigan arrives first, then Andre. The Interim Executive Presbyter Tony de la Rosa. Who would know better bout resurrection than West-Park? he said when I thanked him for coming. Then happily more members, and more visitors. Our first Easter home in four years. At SPSA, I’d forgotten the pleasure of meeting people you’ve never met before at Christmas and Easter. 
Tony and Hope

As the people gather, I explain what we are, what we are not. Our first Easter here after three years.  No trumpets. No choir. Not even an accompanist. Just Andre and I. Not a full service operation. A resurrection not complete. But an opportunity to help create something new. Bring a church back to life in the resurrection season.
We sing Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia! And pray. Read the Easter story in Matthew. 
Easter has always been hard for me. As a kid, after so many hours in church that week, Maundy Thursday, three hours on Good Friday, the oppressive quiet that followed Good Friday, somehow Easter morning never brought the joy I wanted. Even with the eggs we dyed.  Even with chocolate eggs and bunnies. And the garden tools we received back at the old house on Park Avenue. Always second to Christmas. 
As a young preacher, never got to preach Easter. Maybe the Sunday after. Every Associate Pastor knows what that’s like. First Easter sermon was at a community service in a shopping mall in Pittsburgh. A macaw in a large cage giving me my amens. 
The Matthew story raises questions. 
There are two women. Like in the Park this morning. Not considered reliable witnesses. The first to see. 
Last Friday was not only Good Friday but also Earth Day. Any connection? I think of the earthquake that day. As if the very earth  trembled at Jesus’ death. As if a cosmic tragedy had just occurred. And woven into creation’s fabric. And today, another  earthquake, simultaneous with the angel. How do we even talk about earthquakes, in the context of Japan, tsunami? The very earth trembled...
The stone. The angel rolled away the stone: why do that? Not to let Jesus out, he’s already out. An then the angel sits on it. On the one hand, it was so people could look in and see what was not there. The stone was also the symbol of power of the state, of Rome. The state’s effort to express its dominance and control, it’s power to entomb, to wall up. By rolling away the stone, by sitting on it, the angel rejects its power. They even try bribing the guards to keep the truth hidden. 

And so the women react with fear and joy.  Why? Because often we can feel more than one thing at the same time. Because resurrection is not easy. Is scary. Easier to stay in the  tomb. Not come out into the aching light of day. Easier to stay dead than to risk life again. Risk life again. Risk love.

And then go to Galilee...what does that mean? That Jesus is always there, out there ahead of us. Waiting for us. Anyplace we ned to go, no matter how scary the path, Jesus is already there. Can we see that place Jesus is calling us to?
So, what happened? Something happened...something beyond metaphoric, something real. What do we believe? That there is something beyond death. Something in the circle of the seasons. In the heart of creation. Something we live through. Die through. And live again. Over and over and over again....
And so on this Easter, we are opening ourselves to resurrection...walking together towards life. Again.
We take up an offering. Sing the doxology. Christ the Lord is Risen Again. There are too many to  make our circle this morning. We step across the aisles. Say the benediction. Sing our amens. 

I walk around to meet the people. Young women with dreams. One musical theatre. From Oklahoma. Two older women. A famous singer. And the daughter of our former Hispanic pastor from 30 years ago. Whose daughter is an actor friend of Chuck’s who was at our artist gathering yesterday.

The Santiagos have brought baskets for the children. Especially Hugo’s grandchildren. The girls wearing,well, funny Easter head things. Andre and I close up the doors. Walk into the sun.

Easter girls

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