This was published in the Wednesday Word, put out by the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship. 3/28/18
Every year this week comes up in the church calendar. The profound mystery. The very center of the Christian tradition. The heart of it all.
And because we are somehow different every year we encounter this mystery and because we are somehow the same, the text presents us with new reflection opportunities.
This year I am struck by the young man. Who was he? And why would he tell the three women to not be alarmed?
How could they possibly not be alarmed? The one they had come to tend was nowhere to be found. It is alarming.
Their whole world was turned upside down.
Maybe you’ve had moments like this. Maybe you are like the young woman I met recently who was just minding her own business, driving down the road one day. An impaired driver lost control on the other side of the road, smashed into her car and paralyzed her for the rest of her life. As she emerged from a ten day coma, she had good days and bad days, days of relief that she was alive, days of deep tears knowing that nothing would be the same. As her chaplain, I just listened to her. I held her hand. I listened to her fears and her dreams. I marveled at her resilience over time. She was alarmed, but not defeated.
The young man at the tomb performed three remarkable tasks in this story.
1. Comforting. The young man was an instrument of comfort. “Do not be alarmed.” Somehow in the moment when they could have completely panicked, he was there to stand with them. “There is more to the story than you realize. Do not panic, right this moment. There is something bigger going on. I know you want to panic right now, but trust that something greater, beyond your wildest imagination is happening underneath all of this. The story does not end here.”
2. Orienting. The young man oriented them to their surrounding. In the moment of despair, in the moment of deepest tragedy, the one thing that is universal is a sense of disorientation. The young man in this story says: “Look” and “Look again.” He says to them: in this moment, you are disoriented. You are not losing it. You are not imagining any of it. It is real. But look and look again. Feel the ground under your feet. You are exactly where you think you are, you just can’t see it in this moment. But I’m here, standing next to you. It’s real and you’re going to be ok.
3. Sending. “Go ahead, as Jesus told you.” The young man is not just there to comfort and orient, he is there to send them forth. Go ahead to Galilee. He’ll meet you there. And you’ll be reunited with your loved ones.” And the story will continue on in ways you could not possibly imagine in this moment. A new day is coming, and you won’t be able to see it now, and you couldn’t write a mission statement around it if you tried. But trust me, go, and you’ll meet a transforming love and be a part of something wondrous and amazing.
You have been the young man in your own narrative and you have been the young man to others, I am sure of it. And you have encountered, in the moment of your deepest fears and disorientation, someone who comforted, oriented and sent you to a new story, when you thought all was lost.
They were seized, nonetheless, by terror and amazement and they were afraid, but still they walked. So it is with us, as we pursue the one who was resurrected and who invites us to a story we cannot even imagine, a story of life and transforming love and renewal. Do not be alarmed: walk. The way is calling.