After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” -Matthew 28:1-10
“Do not be afraid!” says the angel.
Some at the tomb fall over from fright, as though they are dead, others run to share the Good News that Jesus is alive and in Galilee and he will be seen once again.
Those who have lost a loved one know what it is like to wish for one more contact, one more conversation, one more touch, one more look. It is one of our deepest longings. We have things we want to say, to see, to remember. We want to have one more chance, one more opportunity. The women who arrived at the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus were no different. They wanted this one-more-time. It must have been such a relief to see Jesus again. How amazing that feeling must have been.
Jesus, always the teacher, does not stay and linger in the moment.
He reminds the women to not be afraid. And then he says he is headed to Galilee. “Go to Galilee,” Jesus says, “that’s where you will find me.”
Jesus’ admonition on that first Easter morning was twofold:
Do not linger
Go to Galilee
One of the theological images we have been using in our transitional time as a Presbytery is talking about God’s preferred future. In his fantastic article on this theme David Lose provides this nugget of truth:
The other dangerous time for communities is when they experience crisis. A crisis diverts attention from the future precisely because it demands all of our attention in the present. Yet I would argue it is precisely during a crisis when it is most important for leaders to keep their community focused on the future. Crises, you see, demand so much energy that if you don’t come out on the other side closer to the preferred future you imagined, it will be harder than ever to get there. New patterns of activity, new priorities, new cultures develop during crises. If they don’t serve the preferred future they will have channeled you toward another future and made it incredibly difficult to adjust back.
The murder and death of Jesus was a crisis for the first disciples. They did not know what to do and in their fear they wanted to return to normalcy or something like that. They were stuck, frozen, locked up in a house and they were struggling to know what to do next. When they encountered Jesus they wanted to stay and be near to him.
Jesus, always the leader was out ahead. “Go to Galilee!” he said, “That’s where you will find me.”
“Leave that locked up house, let go of your fear, head outside and be in the community. Go forward, for that is where I am calling you.” says Jesus.
That is our resurrection-call today as the Church. To let go of the past and to not go back towards it. I know that it is a strong urge to go back to days when things were the way we liked them, when patterns were predictable. But that is not the time we are in. These things are dead, gone, buried and in the process of being resurrected in God’s mysterious, Spirit-filled way. What a gift it is to live in the time of the death and rising of the Church in a new way! What a gift it is to be part of laying some of the foundations for the future! Resurrection is a harrowing, life-changing, world-altering journey. Resurrection means we will leave many things behind and follow God into a calling that is meant for the healing and salvation for all of Creation.
The Good News is, we are not alone! Jesus is beckoning, something new is on the horizon. Our Galilee is calling. And we are called to step into the places (even if they scare us) to where our risen Savior leads.
Do not be afraid!
Isn’t it a gift to know that our Savior knew that these four words were the most important ones we would always need to hear?
Do not be afraid!
Go to Galilee!
Do not be afraid!
Blessings to you in this Easter Season!
Image: Women Arriving at the Tomb, He Qi
Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo is the Transitional Presbyter for Albany Presbytery. She’s fascinated by the ever-changing landscape of culture and faith communities and how these changes are pointing us to new ways of living into God’s ongoing gift of resurrection. She can be reached at [email protected].
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