Well what a strange day, though when I pause to reflect I guess it is no more strange than the last 2 years. In 2020, in the first pandemic lockdown, just getting my head around live streaming I led prayers from my living room using a tablet and my mobile phone because the camera on my old laptop had died! In 2021, despite having been out and about to outdoor events on both Good Friday and Holy Saturday I led Easter Day worship, morning and evening from Zoom, joining with folk from much further afield than would have gathered in a building, I also walked a labyrinth in another church, nothing was “normal”, though I am now wondering what normal is now! For all of these, apart from when out and about, there was a curious solitariness, and yet connectedness, in the new way of ministering and being that life had become, and in many ways still is. Many of us have learned new skills and I for one am grateful for that.
This year I find myself alone again, I think that has been one of the toughest things for me through the entire pandemic season, once the computer has been switched off, no matter how many have gathered, I have found myself alone with no-one to share my thoughts with except the cats, who are fantastic listeners, but have nothing to say. This year though, I am alone because in some ways I have chosen to be, I wrote yesterday about my plans for today, looking at truth and healing. So this morning I had what on most Easter mornings was a lie in, the cats didn’t demand feeding until 8:30am, and I was in no way trying to be holy by marking the day by seeing the sunrise, I allowed myself to sleep. I did my Tai-Ch exercises, took my vitamins and made a coffee. It is a beautiful day so I opened some doors and breathed the fresh air. I decided to wash the throws from the living room sofas, and all was very calm and relaxed. Having listened to a bit of the radio I turned it off, and listened instead to the Easter readings from my devotional app. While I did so, I felt prompted to create a pastel sketch. This might not strike you as significant, but it is, I haven’t drawn anything since before Christmas, and only created a painting with my granddaughter in February because she wanted to.
I was reflecting on the encounter of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the garden by the empty tomb. I will let it speak for itself:
Another coffee and I read from Paula Gooder’s book “Women of Holy Week”, the account of Mary the wife of Clopas, and their travels to Emmaus, how Jesus broke into their argument, and after listening to them opened the Scriptures about himself as they walked together. If you aren’t familiar with the story you can read it here. As they neared their home, Clopas and his companion, in Gooder’s imagining his wife Mary ( which seems entirely reasonable to me), pleaded with Jesus to stay, and then recognised him as he blessed the bread they had brought, he then disappeared and they left the table and ran back to Jerusalem, which was not just down the road.
Their eyes were opened and they saw! It would be great to tell you I saw something, but I didn’t, and yet in the strange chosen quiet of my morning something in me shifted, and to steal a phrase from C.S.Lewis, I was surprised by joy, not happiness, but joy, something much deeper, something that I cannot put into words. I have revelled in it, but am not trying to contain it or claim it, and I am certainly not trying to explain it, it just is. The resurrection account has reached through the ages and met me where I am, and like Mary in the garden blinded by my tears I was ready not to recognise the risen Christ this morning, but I did, almost as if he had spoken my name. His words “don’t cling to me”, resonated particularly, it seems that in life we so often try to cling to particular ways of being, or we look for the next high and try to push away the lows rather than simply learning to be and accept. If my recent time of depression has taught me anything, it is not to fight it, but to acknowledge it, and in a certain sense to embrace it, but not to cling to it. So it is with joy, it has found me today, surprised me today, and for that I am grateful.
Maybe I needed a third unusual Easter Day!