John 20:1-18 and Blessing When the World is Ending by Jan Richardson
Easter Sunday April 17th, 2022
By Nicole M. Lamarche
Those of you who know me, know that I have the gift of tears so they might spill out today. I feel this sense of joy to be here like this. And all of the hands that went into it, from Leslie making sure we had fresh candles, to Truitt running our livestream, to Jackie filling in for Karen, to the choir. It all feels like something I will never take for granted again. Happy Easter and it’s good to be with you on this beautiful morning, however you are gathering, whether it is on the livestream or the watch party here or in the room.
It is our practice to take just a few moments and let ourselves breathe, to tune into our heartbeat, to the Great Spirit, to the birdsongs and to the sounds of being off mute, to tune into whatever word God has for us this day. As you are moved, join me in a spirit of prayer from Psalm 19.
Gracious God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Some say that the world is ending. Have you heard that? Or that we are in the so-called end of days. Someone even called the church office this week to inquire about a baptism, simply because they believe we are in the end times.
I totally understand why a person could come to such a conclusion. Especially if the reference point is Boulder County. Because on top of the trauma from the pandemic and the trauma from ending our occupation of Afghanistan and the trauma from the insurrection on our nation’s capital, here locally, we have endured not just a gun violence massacre that took ten lives and our sense that shopping at our neighborhood grocery store is safe, but we have endured a fire that changed everything and the new normals of fires, showing us what an altered biosphere really means. And along with all of that, on top of all that we have lost, in the way of people and places, we have before us a housing crisis, an economic crisis and a growing water crisis. And we watch and worry about the war, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine leaves whole villages, and the hopes of generations and lots of broken hearts in ruin. It would in fact be quite sensical for one to conclude that this is where the world ends.
Not long ago, Terry Glavin wrote an article entitled, “The pessimists were right all along — the world is going to hell in a handcart.” In the essay, he dives into Andrew Potter’s book called “On Decline” where he proposes that “Enlightenment did not eradicate the magical thinking of superstitious preliterate societies.” And he contends that to our detriment “Unreason has lingered, on the right and on the left, and we’re all submitting to rigidly enforced belief systems that affirm irrational beliefs rather than illuminate the real world all around us.”
But I think the pandemic has actually forced the illumination of the real world, forced us to see it, whether we like it or not. And this has only added to our angst. We see with clarity maybe more than we ever have, how fragile this all is. We have seen how quickly some things can crumble when faced with the pressures of a moment like this, everything from relationships to nation-states, to ecosystems and our systems of supply chains. Cherished restaurants and churches have closed, families shifted, and the fabric of communities tested and in some places torn.
We have been through a forced illumination where we have lost so much and also I am realizing we have lost illusions, this time has been the death of many illusions- the illusion that our democratic republic is invincible, the illusion that climate change is far off, that the current world order would remain indefinitely, the illusion that in a global health crisis, we humans would prioritize the common good over individual preferences and profits, all of this, maybe a lot of what we thought, about how things would go, has fallen away, withered and died, and with these illusions gone, as we are awash in grief and unmoored, by more and more news of tragedy, no wonder some of us are asking: is this where it ends?
Personally I have struggled over this year. It sounds poetic to be alive for a dramatic paradigm shift, but the truth is, it’s hard. We have all had to not just grieve and let go, but keep going, and take on more and different ways of being and doing. It has been just too much on some days. It feels like we humans aren’t designed to evolve so quickly.
But this week I found myself wondering if the sense of being lost and thrown off, navigating through terror and tears, worry and wondering, maybe this is just how first disciples felt on that Easter morning too?
Because as you heard, the version in the Gospel of John says that they were running in the dark toward tomb, looking for miracles, on high alert, seeking solace and possibility or anything hopeful in one area after another, finding rocks and ruin, but still searching for the spot where they thought, Jesus just might be, and like them, we have often found not direction or certainty, but instead confusion and questions, more sadness, more weeping, while there sits the wrappings from broken bodies and broken dreams.
They too probably asked: is this where it ends?
As we heard from Jan Richardson “we know the world is always ending somewhere…” so maybe on this Easter morning, the question for us isn’t: is this where the world ends, but rather, can this be a place where the new world begins? Can this tomb, and all of the tombs of this time, be transformed?
Because whatever happened long ago, early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, whatever happened, when Mary came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been rolled away, whatever the details might be, we know that it wasn’t the end.
And after all that we have been through, I wonder if it is because they refused to let it be. Those who showed up to the tomb that day took responsibility for the whole story in a new way. So part of the miracle of Easter for me is how a small group refused to let a dream die, how they demanded that love would win, how they didn’t turn away from the tombs and the terror, how they dared to claim the movement as their own, and how they had the courage to go the places of endings and insist that it be the beginning. Instead of asking, is this where it all ends, they asked, how can we be a place where the new world begins?
Long ago, I realized what matters more to me than whether I could believe this story of bodily resurrection, was whether I am a part of living it as the Body of Christ here and now. I know a lot of people are sad, anxious and depressed and I am finding for myself that what lifts me up, what brings me above all of this, is trying to live resurrection. Our congregation is a part of an effort to support two families who fled Afghanistan and found a home here in Boulder, and our congregation has a garden out there and many gardens that feed the hungry and help regenerate soil, all of this is living resurrection.
A few months after the King Sooper’s massacre, many of you know that our church collaborated with the Colorado Springs non-profit RawTools to host something, that was the first ever of its kind, a faith community putting on a gun buyback event where unwanted firearms were cut up on chop saws and then turned them into jewelry and garden tools. Before our action, some told us that nothing would ever change and that anything our community would do, wouldn’t move the dial. We were told it was hopeless. It felt like hearing the tombs would be the end.
But what actually happened was that some didn’t turn away and some had the courage to go to the place of endings and insist that it be the start of a world that is not yet. And we didn’t know on that day in June, last June, not that long ago, that we were actually a part of beginning a whole new level of the gun disarmament movement. Since then numerous churches of a variety of denominations have hosted similar events and now the Denver Broncos, along with municipalities in the Denver Metro area are on board. Just this year, there are six more gun buyback events scheduled in our area. This to me is resurrection! As Mike Martin the Founder of Raw Tools said, “Beating swords into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks, and guns into garden tools creates a dynamic shift..” We are engaging our imaginations to move from fear to creativity.
This is going toward the tombs of this time and not just looking for miracles, but making them! Insisting the new world into being. Amid rocks and ruin, searching for the spot where we thought, Jesus might be and sometimes being willing to see him in the new thing.
Beloved of God, if you are feeling lost and thrown off, as if navigating through terror and tears, worry and wondering, remember that you are not alone and that being alive for the remaking of the world is exhausting, but do you know what else? It’s also exhilarating.
Because some of the world as it was, needed to die and now is our chance to live resurrection, to shape the new world. You are alive for the remaking of the world! How does it feel? I believe that we are called right now to recreate ourselves and our world because “we know the world is always ending somewhere…” and we know now with clarity that everything is fragile, that all of us are mortal, that all that we make is breakable, that our time here together like this, is in the end, actually quite tenuous, and we also know that our presence is powerful and the possibilities with Love are endless. So maybe on this Easter morning, the question for us isn’t: is this where the world ends, but rather, how can this, how can we, be a place where the new world begins? May it be so. Amen.