Calculating Easter

Endless is the victory!

The cross stands empty to the sky and the stone is rolled away!

Jesus Christ who was crucified, lives
and through his sacrifice and love
God has conquered death
for you, for me,
for all nations and peoples,
for all creation,
and today is Easter Sunday…

Although, I will say, this past week there was a little confusion
about when Easter Sunday was actually supposed to be, and
specifically, whether we’d missed it by a week!

Last Saturday I was here with the group of special readers for Palm Sunday:
John Darnes, Justin Farren, Todd Domaleski, and Nanci Wilfong.

We were just finishing our rehearsal
for Walt Wangerin’s “Cry of the Whole Congregation,”
a special reading of the passion story,
which they would help bring to life the next day.

And as we were visiting after our run-through
Nanci mentioned to the rest of us that she’d seen a commercial on TV
Running throughout the previous week
Paid for by a local Christian congregation
Inviting people to church the next day,
(that is last Sunday)…

for what they were calling “Resurrection Sunday.”

“Wait! Isn’t ‘Resurrection Sunday’ Easter Sunday?” we all wondered together.

“We didn’t mix up our calendar and miss Easter did we?” we asked aloud.

It would be terrible, we all agreed, to get it wrong!

If you know Nanci,
you know she’s sharp,
Which is to say,
if she said that’s what the TV commercial said, that’s what it said,

Truthfully, I was only worried for a split second.

In fact, you may know Easter is a movable feast,
Which simply means
that it doesn’t fall on a particular and recurring date each year.

In other words, if you want to do more
than look at your year-at-a-glance calendar,
And trust it to be correct,
You need to know that the celebration of Easter Sunday falls
on the first Sunday
after the first full moon
that occurs on or after the vernal equinox.

Just so ya know!

Suffice it to say, discovering when Easter Sunday will be each year
can be a little confusing…

And it seems to me that it’s only fitting,
given the confusion of the first Easter morning
which was a quick flurry of jumbled events.

Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb in the dark
and sees the stone is rolled away,
and she doesn’t understand what’s happened,
but she immediately runs,
dashing through gardens and backstreets
to tell Peter and the disciple Jesus loved (who we assume is John).

It’s strange though: even as she takes the news of an empty tomb,
she doesn’t really understand what it means.

Perhaps it’s hearing the worry in Mary’s voice,
that make Peter and John so alarmed
that they run as fast as they can back to the tomb.

John pulls ahead, arrives first, but doesn’t go in for some reason.

Peter finally arrives and plunges immediately into the dark tomb
sees the graveclothes that had been around Jesus’ body
and the cloth that had covered his head,
and he staggers back out into the daylight confused.

Like so many of Jesus’ disciples,
Peter was told that Jesus must suffer, be crucified, and rise,
but the heady events of his triumphant Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem
had stoked fresh dreams
of the speedy arrival of a political kingdom set up in Jesus’ name
and the dreadful crucifixion had crushed all these hopes.

So with Peter standing there confused,
John goes into the tomb,
and he does see and understand and believe that Jesus is risen,
But then, strangely
he and Peter both just return home,
and Mary stands alone, weeping.

Grief can so often confuse us and disconnect us from one another.
We don’t know how to deal with our own sadness and also
support those around us
and so we’re robbed of the connections that would bring comfort,

And Mary finds herself alone.

She’s weeping,
But not because she thinks Jesus is dead,
But because she thinks his body has been stolen,
an added humiliation to all Jesus has endured
but a common crime in Palestine,

But she’s still discombobulated in her thought:
robbers wouldn’t have left
the extremely valuable graveclothes and spices in place in the tomb,
neatly kept as they are.

But grief clouds our ability to see clearly
And what’s happening to Mary
is too strange and wonderful and unpredictable
for her to have had any clarity yet.

Instead, she simply feels the presence of someone behind her.

She turns to speaks to him,
And is confused about who it is
-thinking it is the gardener –
She asks about the body so that she can take it and carry it away,
Again, never mind that it would have been much too heavy.

And in the midst of all her confusion and grief, she hears: “Mary!”

And she hears the voice she loves and has followed.
She hears the voice that loves her and has called her by name,
and she sees him.

Her heart is flooded with clarity!


Her heart throbs with Surprise!


Her heart explodes with Joy!


And she will go to tell the others “I have seen the Lord!”

The very first proclamation of Easter.

Yesterday many of us gathered for our Epiphany Eggstravaganza.

Ms Betsy was with us,
grandparents, parents, friends and children.

We were in Price Hall and in the Burger Commons
For all kind of games and activities and songs
But at the heart of it, of course,
And still the most fun part of all,
was the easter egg hunt.

Kids searching and finding…and shrieking with delight.

It occurs to me that we are all searching for something,
Not only these small children for plastic eggs and the goodies inside.

Older youth who hid the eggs yesterday and their friends
You’re searching for how to understand the gifts you’ve been given,
Where you’ll head after high school,
What type of school or vocational track will be right for you,
As you discover who you are and who God has made you to be.

Young adults – you are searching for the right work to do,
friends to share life with,
the right place to put down roots,
perhaps even a partner to share life with and start a family.

People in the middle of our lives are searching for
The slippery answer to what it means to discover your life is half over
And contemplating the things we haven’t done that we wanted to
And how to make the most of the time.

Those nearing retirement or having already retired
are searching for ways to savor the time,
How to connect with the ones closest to you and support them,
And at some point
you’ll search out how to go on without a parent
Without a spouse
or loved one.

And in the midst of all these stages
there are so many big questions
And there is so much to find.

Easter is not one of those things that we have to find.

There is no need to search Easter out.

Easter finds us.

Easter happens to us.

In the midst of the confusion and the questions all around us.
In the midst of our grief,
In the midst of our wondering,
In the midst of our searching and seeking.

Resurrection Sunday is every Sunday
And you can’t miss it because it comes to you as a free gift.

On a Friday, Christ died for your sins and mine.

On a Saturday, the last day of the week,
he rested in the tomb just as God rested on the 7th day of creation.

And on a Sunday, early on the first day of the week,
Christ was raised,
Beginning a new creation,

And he appeared to Mary and the others;
And spoke to them
and sent them out to share the news.

And as the Holy Spirit
gathered more and more people to be a part of God’s
suprising, clarifying, sustaining life,

Jesus’ disciples continued to gather on the first day of the week to mark and celebrate his resurrection and proclaim his victory over death,

And you have been drawn into his life.

Jesus calls you by name.

In your baptism,
You are named and claimed by God

At this table, Jesus comes to you again,

Week by week he guides us
And not only on every Sunday (every resurrection day),

But every single day,
Jesus comes to us to love and forgive us,
And will keep coming
until the day he comes again as
Victorious Lord of all.

We literally can’t mix this up.

We can’t miss it.

Easter is the new reality
in us
and all around us
and filling all creation.

Every day is a day Jesus is alive and walks with us,
Every day is a day he is searching for us,
and seeking us out
and finding us,
and keeping us in the treasury of God’s heart,

So that we can share the good news of his love with a world in need,
So that can be there for one another in our grief,
And so that we can proclaim together the wonderful,
world-transforming news:

Christ is risen! He is Risen Indeed!
Christ is risen! He is Risen Indeed!
Christ is risen! He is Risen Indeed!


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