Terror and Amazement
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 and Good Bones by Maggie Smith and Mark 16:1-8
April 4th, 2021
Happy Easter to you! Today we have our people on site and we have people worshiping in our Zoom Watch Party and we have you who are joining us at cucclivestream.com. However you are joining us, thank you for being a part of our celebration today. We find ourselves in yet another experimental formation. This has become more familiar to us over the course of the pandemic. Pandemic pivots have taught us a lot! We have become better at failing, improving and carrying on. Today this experiment is what people are calling hybrid worship, where we are participating in our worship service on three planes of reality. I can’t believe I just said that sentence! We ask for your grace and support as we collaborate in our co-creation. I will look there and here and do my best to share a word today on whatever level of reality in which you find yourself. As we come to this time, it is our practice to pause for a moment, to let ourselves arrive in not just body, but in mind and spirit. I invite you to breathe, to notice your heartbeat, to breathe in peace and breathe out stress. And as you are so moved, I invite you to join me in a spirit of prayer and centering from Psalm 19. God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O God our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
“They went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them.” That’s what the version of the Easter story found in the Gospel of Mark reports to us. They had gone to anoint Jesus’ body and maybe to say a final farewell or to sing a song and say a prayer and eventually they fled the scene because they were at the same time filled with horror, in shock, even panicked and also that they were astonished, surprised and amazed.
They had likely been without sleep, after having had witnessed murders and were traumatized by the violence in an already difficult time. They had lost what they loved so quickly; they were surrounded by fear and a feeling of floundering. And also we read that somehow they were amazed.
It’s hard to know exactly why. The terror part is understandable, but to be amazed? Because this version of the Easter story doesn’t get us to hallelujahs and happy celebrations where all is well and their teacher is back among them. In fact as you heard, the final word, according to the Gospel of Mark is this: for they were afraid. Those who came were in a liminal space, a paradox of emotion. Terror, amazement, fear.
And this feels about right.
Grief and fear are ways we human beings are designed to respond to loss. And wow we have lost a lot this year. From human lives, to jobs and business that might never return, to the loss of a normal we had talked about fixing, but then suddenly vanished forever. And then a mass shooting, 10 people gone, right here.
It is a loss of orientation, of the illusion of safety or that tomorrow will be somewhat like today. We are afraid and we are grieving because we have lost so much- a liminal space, a paradox of emotion. Terror, fear, amazement.
Joan Halifax, an American Zen Buddhist teacher shared, both grief and fear are about loss -“loss of social connection, loss of autonomy, and loss of certainty.” And one of her students shared this gem of wisdom, “grief is love that has nowhere to go…”
Fear and grief, both of which might be surrounding us right now, tell us for sure what we love.
Joan Halifax goes on, “We grieve because we love. If we avoid grief, in a certain way, we avoid love. It is important for us to grieve. When we experience fear, we then are able to identify a wall, a barrier, a limitation. … this is an invitation for us.”
We can dare to face it, not avoid it. And as I shared last week, sometimes our call is simple but hard- to remain here, to not turn away from what is.
Which is why it was noticeable to me, upon reading the narrative in Mark this year, that so many of the characters flee. It is not just the women who we read flee in fear. Earlier we read of the disciples fleeing when Jesus was arrested and of course the way Peter flees in a spiritual sense by denying his connections to Jesus. Then there is a guy in the Garden of Gethsemane who flees when the Roman Soldiers arrive. They all fled in part out of fear.
I guess it is another truth about human beings: some of us flee when things get hard. Because it’s just too much to take in. Because we don’t know what to do. Because we aren’t sure how others will react to our emotions. Because we feel helpless. Because we feel guilty. Because we are angry. Because we are sad. Because we are disoriented and losing what we love. It is easier sometimes to flee.
I have found myself wondering over these days, how can I let myself feel what I need to, but not flee?
C.S. Lewis wrote “No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.”
I guess maybe I understand now more than I ever did, how grief and fear and love can sometimes be all mixed together.
Like many of you, I am finding that grief comes in waves and I can be weeping one minute and in awe of our community the next. And fear comes in ripples too. I live in this neighborhood and I have discovered like others, that I can’t always take the route I once could. It is too hard. As you might already know, the Memorial Wall continues to grow. Prayers of lamentation and grief, prayers of hope and peace are all interwoven with flowers and other expressions that defy words. And it is still a crime scene, a wound, a barrier, a traffic jam, now a pilgrimage site and a sacred place.
I feel it all terror, amazement and fear.
So this year, I wonder if the miracle of Easter, might not just be about what happened with Jesus, but about how those women carried on even with their fear, even after being terrorized, even after having lost so much? I wonder if the miracle of Easter is that they still found a way to be amazed even in the pain, that they carried on, knowing some will flee when things get hard? I wonder once again if we are invited not to believe this ancient story, but to live it- to carry on in a liminal space, in a mix of emotions, even when it’s just too much to take in, when we don’t know what to do, when we aren’t sure how others will react, when we feel helpless, when we feel guilty, when we are angry, when we are sad, when we are disoriented, when we have lost, we remember that we must grieve because we love. And to avoid it, is to avoid love.
Fear might have been the end of Mark’s version of the story, but we know it wasn’t the end of the story. Because here we are. Gathered together over two thousand years later to hear this story again- to remind one another that whatever we believe and whatever name we have for God, It is with us at tombs and barrier fences that are transformed into memorial looms, weaving horror and hope altogether. God knows that terror, fear, grief and tears are telling us what we love.
Father Richard Rohr asked, what if we can choose to experience this liminal space and time, this uncomfortable right now, as a place to put us in a state of creativity, of construction and deconstruction, choice and transformation?
Can this tomb, that Memorial Wall with flowers and candles and signs, be a place of absolute sadness and violence and also the site where God is present, where Love is bursting forth? Can this moment be one of the worst in Boulder history and also can this be a moment of gorgeous generosity, of art, compassion and connection? Can this be a time of terrible pain and also be a time where we are making new circles and drawing wider ones, adding energy to a movement for something else?
This year, I feel like we have joined the women at the tomb on that first Easter morning. Like them, many of us are without sleep, near the site of murders, traumatized by the violence, in an already difficult time, having lost what we loved so quickly; surrounded by fear and a feeling of floundering. We are with them at the tomb in terror and amazement. But let us not flee. And let us join those women who found a way, to turn that violent, painful day, into a movement for something else. And let us spend the rest of our lives insisting that we could make this place beautiful! Let us live this Easter story and demand that our fear, that this blood, this violence, these losses, those weapons, this moment, our pain, will not be the end of this story… May it be so. Amen.