Sometimes Easter comes, but we’re still stuck in Good Friday. A friend of mine remarked a few days ago, “I feel this Holy Week in my bones.”
I daresay, she speaks for many of us. Between wars and rumors of war, the idea that the word “mother” is associated with the largest non-nuclear explosive device ever used, chemical attacks, ongoing news accounts of death by murder and suicide and devastating accidents…
I believe she speaks for many of us.
She certainly speaks for the disciples.
(Scripture can be found here...
Listen to our story this morning. Notice the Good Friday feel of it, even though this is the day of resurrection.
Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb while it is still dark—while the despair and fear of Friday are still fresh, and the best possibility she can imagine for herself is be close to the body of Jesus, lying, dead, in his tomb. How could she imagine otherwise?
But she finds the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Her world reeling, she runs to where the other disciples are holed up.
“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,” she says, because, again, the only possibility for her remains that Jesus is dead. Only now, it seems that someone has stolen his body for some unknown reason… a truly horrible thought.
For Mary, it’s still Good Friday.
Two come running. One is Peter, and the other is never named in this gospel, except to be called, “the one Jesus loved.” These two come, and it’s a footrace to the tomb.
First at the tomb is the one Jesus loved.
First one in the tomb is Peter.
First one to believe, is the one Jesus loved.
But… believe what, exactly?
It still makes no sense.
And for all that, the two, Peter and the one Jesus loved, return home.
Mary has another experience. But we are not staying with her today. We are staying with those other disciples.
Hours later… when the hours of the day have ticked by and it is evening again… we find them, and now, not only are they holed up in their house; the doors are locked. Whatever “believing” means, it is not quite enough to keep them from being afraid. After all, their own people were divided on the question of Jesus, and the Romans, the ones with all the power, had just killed him.
Why wouldn’t they be scared?
Easter night, but the disciples are still in a Good Friday world. Shut down, locked down. Hurt and hiding.
And then, abruptly, there he stands. Right in front of them, locked doors notwithstanding, Jesus is here.
“Shalom,” he says. “Peace.”
And in answer to a question they haven’t even asked, he shows them his hands, and his side. His hands, where the nails had been. His side, which the spear had pierced. Evidence of the deadly wounds that had put him in the tomb in the first place.
Even in resurrection. Jesus bears the marks of Good Friday on his body.
Another friend shared this experience this week.
Some friends who aren't religious were talking about how when they are sickened and heartbroken over the state of the world, they sometimes catch themselves praying, even though they don't believe in God, and don't know what praying means for them.”
Someone suggested “Sometimes you just want to know there's a heart bigger than yours that is breaking too.”
That's what Good Friday means for me this year. The violence and suffering in the world breaks a heart bigger than mine too
The risen Jesus Christ bears the marks of Good Friday on his body, because we need to know that God’s heart breaks along with ours. When our hearts break because of some horrifying situation on the national or international stages, or because we have just heard the frightening diagnosis, or because of a lost relationship we thought was rock solid, or because of the lost future that vanishes with that lost relationship… God’s heart breaks, right along with ours.
God’s heart breaks. And so, Jesus shows up in the midst of his heartbroken and terrified disciples and says, “Shalom. Peace, because God has this.”
Resurrection begins with pain and death. This is the truest thing I know. But it doesn’t leave us there. And that’s why Jesus does and says something that, at first, seems confusing, or maybe, better suited to some other place and time.
Jesus breathes on his friends, which means, he shares his Spirit with them. And he says, again, “Shalom. Peace. As I was sent, now you are being sent. And your mission is this: by the power of my Holy Spirit, practice forgiveness.”
Go out into the world and forgive, Jesus says. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is reconciliation. You have the ability to forgive, and you have the ability to not forgive. I think you know what you need to do.
This is the kind of news that is, at the very least, a mixed bag. That is because we are, most of us, still scrambling to catch up with Jesus. We are not quite as evolved as the Son of God, who dispenses forgiveness with freedom and abandon. We haven’t caught up with the one who makes it clear that he understands very well his situation: he is at one with God. And he hints throughout the entire story that, we may well be one with God, too, but that depends on us, on what we do next. If we are one with God, then we pretty much immediately have to reckon with the fact that we are one with one another, and, well, as Groucho Marx would say, most of us wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have us as a member.
But this is what resurrection looks like. Resurrection is both an event, in time, and also a practice, that transcends time. I’ll tell you how we can get a good start on practicing resurrection, now: We forgive one another.
I know, I know. It’s hard, forgiveness. We’ve been hurt. We nurse our hurt and cherish it, because we can tell stories about it, and tell people about those other people who hurt us, and see the sympathy in their eyes, and know that they’re on our side. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: The thing that, mostly, stands in the way of our forgiving one another, is the little fact that we haven’t yet figured out how to forgive ourselves… despite the fact that our faith tells us, loudly and repeatedly, that We. Are. Forgiven. For everything. But ours is a life of self-inflicted wounds, from fractured relationships to addiction to not believing in the grace of it all, so we resist. “I know God’s forgiven others, but... I’m really so bad,” we think to ourselves. We’re shut down. We’re locked down. We’re hurt and hiding. We’re living in a Good Friday world.
Well that's enough of that. No one in or out of this world is outside the sphere of God’s amazing grace and forgiveness, so it is time to stop being so special and unforgiveable, and it’s time to start realizing: We are forgiven. We can forgive ourselves. And when we begin to do that… That’s when forgiving others stops being an exercise in discipline, done, gritting our teeth. Instead, it becomes a tantalizing prospect. Suddenly, it’s an opportunity to invite others… those who we have hurt, those who have hurt us… to the most wonderful celebration imaginable, a celebration where every single person looks into the eyes of every other person with understanding, and compassion, and love.
The prayer I’m about to read was found in the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, where more than 50,000 women and children died during the Nazi persecution of Jews, and the Roma people, Poles and other people of Slavic origin, people with disabilities, and gay and transgender people. Among others. It was scrawled on a piece of wrapping paper, and found next to the body of a dead child. Its author is unknown.
O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted on us; remember the fruits we have bought, thanks to this suffering – our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this, and when they come to judgment let all the fruits which we have borne be their forgiveness.
Most of us are not ready for acts of forgiveness of this magnitude. That’s probably because few of us have ever had to endure the kind of hardship that can mold such extraordinary character and holiness. But we don’t need to engage in Olympic level acts of forgiveness, at least, not to begin with. We can start, instead, with ourselves. With the knowledge that God’s love for us is complete and perfect, and that rejecting divine forgiveness breaks God’s heart all over again. We can begin by recognizing that we are intimately connected both to one another and the divine, and that our living into that beautiful truth heals even God’s broken heart.
We can practice resurrection now by forgiving ourselves. We can then move on to the joyful practice of inviting other to that resurrection celebration.
Shalom. Peace. God has given us the Holy Spirit, and the power to hold onto our hurts or to let them go. We don’t need to remain shut down, locked down, hurt and hiding. Even if the world looks like Good Friday, we can practice forgiveness, of ourselves and others. We can practice resurrection living. We can know that the Lord is risen indeed, that resurrection now is possible.
Thanks be to God.
 Carol Howard Merritt (PCUSA).
 Pastor Lura Groen (ELCA Pastor).