by Johnny Zokovitch
Our world today is rife with suffering and death. Our discipleship to Jesus leads us to places of immense, deep suffering in our world — children being taken to be soldiers in Africa; victims of war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria; families grieving their lost sons and daughter, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, because of terrorist bombings; young men and women of color gunned down in the street or in detention camps at the border; the impoverished going without food or medical care or employment. It is difficult to believe sometimes that this pain is not all there is. We live much of the time in those moments that the first discipleship community lived through between the crushing despair of Jesus’s death and the stunning revelation that he is risen. Suffering and death still beg for an explanation; the darkness of the tomb and the emptiness of our hearts still hold sway.
Our Scripture passages today read like a litany calling us back to hope. They are our ancestral stories, reminding us of who we are and who God is. The hope they call us to is a hope born of experience, the experiences we have had of God’s action in history. Ours is a God who creates the world out of love and christens it as being “very good”. Ours is a God who steps in at the last moment when all appears to be lost. Ours is a God who chooses a lowly band of Egyptian slaves, urging them forward even when no way appeared to lead through the sea. Ours is a God who has remained faithful, never forsaking, never abandoning the people. In this moment, as we stand before the tomb, our God asks us to remember and to hope. Things are not always as they appear.
When Jesus is placed into the tomb on Good Friday, the assumption of all those present — from his most devoted followers to the opponents who orchestrated his death — is that this is where the story ends. The disciples are in hiding, scattered and fearful, wondering if the fate of their teacher awaits them as well. The opponents are preparing for a return to business as usual, secure in their belief that the threat to their power has been eliminated. But the world is about to be turned upside down. For both the disciples and the powers of this world, nothing will be the same.
At the Easter vigil the entire church waits silently on the cusp of the passage from death into life.
* This reflection is from Rise, And Do Not Be Afraid: Reflections for Lent 2002.