“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.” The Gospel of Matthew 28:1-2
So begins the story of the first Easter morning in Matthew’s Gospel. Each year as I contemplate the miracle of the resurrection I am struck that I can notice different things in the Easter story. I am writing this column the same day as an earthquake hit the greater Los Angeles area. The seismic activity didn’t cause much damage but in the funniest image I saw the sudden shaking led one man leading a TV newscast to declare, “We’re having an earthquake!” Then he stuck his head under his desk. I’m sure he is going to hear about that from his co-workers for a while.
While on one level from a position of distance and safety his fearful reaction was humorous, we can also understand that if we were in a place when everything we thought was secure around us including the literal ground beneath our feet, the walls around us and the roof over our head became to shake and sway, we’d likely be pretty scared.
Most of us have lived long enough to learn that it doesn’t take a literal earthquake to shake us up. Every week I hear from people who have their world shaken by medical news concerning themselves or a loved one. I hear from people whose world is shaken by financial insecurity who don’t have enough income to pay their bills and who struggle to maintain a place to live. I hear from people whose relational world is unsteady and uncertain and things are not the way they hope with family members or in other long-term relationships. Like an earthquake, these events can come upon us suddenly, unexpectedly, and without warning.
It was one year ago this week that I found myself going from a cardiologist’s office to Cape Cod Hospital into immediate surgery because of a significant blockage in a main artery going into my heart. In the twelve months that have followed I’ve had three MRI’s; one of each shoulder and my right elbow, done physical therapy for my shoulders and forearm, and had pericarditis for five months to top it all off. If someone had told me in the middle of last March that I would have to cope with all those different issues I never would have believed it. I’m sure many of you who have gone through or are facing challenges in your life would echo the same feeling. We never know when our world is going to be shaken, do we?
In a similar way, if someone had told Mary Magdalene and the other Mary that the Jesus they loved whose life had been marked by love, compassion, healing, generosity, faithfulness, and wisdom would be brutally killed, I don’t think there is any way they could have envisioned that happening to him. When they went to see the tomb on the first day of the week, their world had already been shaken to the core. There had already been an earthshaking event that had them feeling queasy and uncertain about life and fearful for the future. They are coming to the tomb to hold vigil and mourn and pray, and those of us who have lost loved ones know how the death of one near and dear to us rocks us to the core and shakes our foundations.
Matthew says that “suddenly there was a great earthquake.” Later in verse nine, the word “suddenly” appears again. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” Matthew’s Easter story also emphasizes the importance of seeing and what we see in these verses is that just as an earthquake happens suddenly with no warning and shakes our world, so also Jesus can meet us “suddenly” perhaps especially when our world is being shaken. That is a source of great hope.
On April 20, Easter Sunday, we will look at this theme in depth and I hope you’ll be with us for the best day of the year. We’ll have a sunrise service at Nauset Beach that begins at 5:45 am (sorry – the later Easter is, the earlier sunrise occurs; this year the sun is up at 5:55 am). There will be three services at BBC: Contemporary services at 8:00 and 9:30 and a Traditional service at 11:00 am. Continental Breakfast will be available in the Fellowship Hall beginning at 7:00 am. There will also be a Maundy Thursday Service, including a soup and bread dinner, on April 17 at 6:00 pm and there is an Ecumenical Good Friday service at the Federated Church of Orleans on April 18 at noon for those who wish to attend.
Easter is a great Sunday to invite someone you know to worship with you so I encourage you to be praying and thinking about who you might invite to hear the good news of the resurrection of Jesus.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Doug Scalise