Welcome to the Second Sunday of Easter! For the next six Sundays we will be in the liturgical season of Easter, also called The Great Fifty Days. Traditionally, the Sunday after Easter is called Low Sunday because lots of folks are so worn out from Holy Week, they take this Sunday off! In fact, many preachers take the week after Easter as vacation time, and yes, I have been known to do that as well. All the C&E Christians (that’s what we pastors call the Christmas and Easter crowd) have fulfilled their twice a year obligation to put in an appearance at church and have returned to whatever they prefer to do on Sunday mornings (evenings) the rest of the year. But rather than get down in the dumps over such things, let’s just agree that where two or three are gathered in church on a Sunday in the Easter season, there will be a party!
I have been trying to grab hold of Jesus for as long as I can remember. As a young teenager, I had this incredible oversized 3-D postcard of the Shroud of Turin. The thing was awesome. If you held it to the light one way, you saw an artist’s rendering of the face of Jesus, inspired by a photographic negative of the Shroud. It was a death mask, eyes closed. But if you moved the postcard the other way, the eyes of Jesus would open. I spent hours flipping back and forth and watching those eyes open and close. And I used to wonder: “What if I am looking at the very face of Jesus the moment he was resurrected?”
One spring in Jerusalem, two parades marched into the city. And one spring, two thousand years later, in Knoxville, Tennessee, two groups gathered to hold rallies on opposite sides of the same street. On one side of the street were people in white robes with pointed hoods and hate in their hearts, holding signs with hateful slogans and racial slurs. “White power,” they chanted. “White power.”
Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." I have proclaimed these words during the funerals of old people and infants, husbands and wives, lovers and siblings. And more than once I have watched as people latched onto hope at hearing this promise of Jesus.
In the spring of 2013, I was in my third trimester of pregnancy with my first child, my son Abel... One day, my mother was visiting, helping me try to get everything unpacked and prepared for the baby’s arrival, and I said to her, “I am so tired and so uncomfortable all the time. But there's only another week or two before things go back to normal.” And she just looked at me, trying not to laugh, as I realized afresh that things were never going to go back to normal.