When I was a little boy, my family lived in a drafty old house. On winter mornings I’d go to my bedroom window, and most of the single pane glass would be covered in frosty crystals. It took the light of the morning sun to shine through, and make them visible. The frost on the glass was different each time, just as no two snowflakes are identical.
I heard a yoga teacher say every person’s physical body is different, and we can’t expect to move or bend exactly the way someone else does. As my body ages, I find comfort in that.
But back to my childhood frosty bedroom window. I’d gaze with utter fascination at the patterns etched in the layers of ice. They were like glimpses into a secret reality we don’t usually see. I get the same sense of awe and mystery these days when I’m rock hunting on the beach at Point Pelee, and I find a fossil, or when I’m out after dark and look up at the night sky, laced with bright and distant stars. There is so much to God’s wondrous creation. We can’t explain everything. There is a lot that remains unknown, awesome and mysterious.
There is so much to this life we can experience, see, and feel, and not actually understand. How does love work? How is it we can look into one person’s eyes, and feel a connection, and suddenly they matter to us? We notice there is nobody else quite like this person. We are joyfully reminded that every person we know, every person we meet is as unique a creation as a snowflake or a frosty window. The light of love shines through them in a way that is different from every other person. How is that possible?
How do our lives work? Do we exist somehow, as a soul before we are born into flesh? When our physical lives are over, where does our spirit, our soul go? What are God’s hopes and dreams for us?
The story of the first Easter morning takes our imagination to a place of awe and mystery, offering eerie and strangely comforting hints there is more to life and to death than we know.
To see the beautiful patterns in my frosty bedroom window, I had to rouse myself out of bed. That old house was not well insulated, and my parents set the thermostat low to save money. Many mornings I would hesitate to get out of bed, knowing if I got out of my blanket cocoon, and crossed the floor to the window, I’d be cold.
My wife and I still keep our thermostat low at night. It is lovely to lie toasty warm under the covers. I can put out an arm to test the air, feel the cold, and quickly pull my arm back in, and warm it up again.
Spring has come to our part of the world, but there are chilling things happening around us. Things are not quite the way we wish they could be. Sometimes we may not feel like getting out of bed.
The first Easter morning was dark and cold. Jesus’ friends had watched him die on the cross. They saw the Roman soldier pierce his body with a spear and they were there when blood and water gushed out.
Later, they negotiated with the authorities for Jesus’ body to be carried to a borrowed tomb. They were there when the tomb was sealed. As the sky darkened a huge rock, cut specially for the purpose, was rolled in to block the entrance to the cave, to keep out wild animals and looters, not that there would be anything to scrounge from his grave.
Early, early in the morning, before the sun rose, a few from Jesus’ inner circle got out of bed. They faced the cold and dark of their first day without the one who had lit up their lives, and warmed their hearts from the inside with his presence, and with his teachings about God’s love.
They may not have wanted to brave that dark, cold, scary place, the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid. They overcame their fear, and paralyzing sadness, to be there with the dawn. It was against their faith to do any work on the Sabbath, which ended with the rising of the sun. The new day was the time to wash and anoint Jesus’ body, so it might have a decent burial.
The sun began rose above the curve of the earth, and began to push away the gloom of night- but did not have the power to brighten their spirits, to warm their bewildered, grieving hearts.
The sun claimed the sky, and lit up the world. Morning revealed that somehow, the heavy stone had been rolled away. In one version of the story, a mysterious figure says Jesus was no longer in the dark tomb- he’d been raised from the dead. Another version describes angels at the tomb, and it is a heavenly messenger who rolls away the stone.
Each of the gospel writers tells the story of Easter morning with different details. Maybe the versions are like frosted windows, or snowflakes, beautiful in their own way, hinting to us that there is much about this world we live in that is mysterious, and beyond simple explanation.
I suspect the resurrection news sunk into the hearts of Jesus’ companions before it made sense in their heads. At times our hearts are warmed, and lead us towards the awareness that something important has happened, long before our minds can process it. Matthew’s gospel describes Jesus’ followers as deep in wonder and full of joy. They knew, somehow, they were in the presence of the unique warmth and light of their friend.
This probably did not make sense to them at first- how could it? But over the next few days they heard more stories, and saw things, that warmed their hearts, and helped them to trust what they had been told in that early morning light. Jesus had been raised.
We who seek after Jesus today are like his first followers. We crave the light and warmth that makes the cold and darkness of this world bearable. We desire spring after a long grey winter. We hunger for hope, and meaning.
The Easter story tells us that God’s love, and God’s hopes and dreams for us could not be buried away in the darkness of a cold stone tomb. God rose Jesus from death, so our hearts would know there is nothing, not even death, that is stronger than God’s love. Love shines through, and brings warmth and hope back into our world. Thanks be to God. Amen