For anyone who has grown up where there is significant snow or ice, you learn a new way of walking during wintery weather. You cannot just boldly and carefreely step out of the house or car. You learn a technique that admittedly looks silly from afar but can save many a bruised bottom. You sort of extend your leg and toe and test out the asphalt. If that feels steady, you put more of your weight on the foot. If you are not entirely sure, you can lean back a bit to keep search for an ice-free zone. Like I said, the technique looks a bit ridiculous, but saves you more often than not.
I have been entering into this new era of pandemic in the same tentative way. Much of our life has begun to resemble what we remember as “normal”: no masks required in most places, the elimination of social distancing, the occasional handshake or hug – even the church has reintroduced the common communion cup. But even with all the changes, I still feel a deep-seeded hesitancy in my being. I thought when all these things changed, I would want to party and celebrate. Instead, I find myself leaning back and tipping my toe into the new normal. My body has been on a rollercoaster for far too long to trust this new, exciting time.
A similar thing seems to be happening in our Easter story today. The women are initially terrified about the news of the empty tomb. As they remember Jesus’ foretelling of the event, they excitedly embrace the resurrection – only to have the disciples not believe them. Peter must go see the empty tomb for himself before he will believe the women. But his response to the empty tomb is to go home – amazed, certainly – but quietly returning home. They are not singing the alleluias like we do today. They are not running around town sharing the Good News. The are gingerly dipping their toes into Christ’s resurrection, still not sure they can trust the joy of Easter.
Sometimes we are like that. Last night, we spent an hour retelling the salvation narrative of God – story after story of God’s faithfulness and commitment to save the people, no matter how grave their sinfulness or disloyalty. Last night, we reaffirmed all the good things about our baptism – the very things that make us faithful Christians – even though we struggle everyday to live into our Christian identity. Today we are saying countless alleluias, proclaiming the tremendous news of the empty tomb, despite the fact we have sometimes felt far away from God during these last two years. We are in this sacred place together with people who believe, or want to believe, maybe in new garb, maybe with festive meals waiting for us, and yet there is a hesitancy deep inside us – an unwillingness to fully let go of the weight of all that has been in our lives and believe the alleluias our liturgy has us say.
For us, today, the promise is we are in good company. What God does in the resurrection of Jesus is unfathomable in Jesus’ day – of course the disciples thought the women were telling an idle tale (and their doubt was not just because they kept forgetting Jesus treated women as equal leaders). When you have watched your whole life crumble, every dream of what you thought life with Jesus would be disintegrate in 24 hours, pivoting to news this tremendously good is not easy. And besides, there is a lot more to happen – appearances by Jesus, more teaching, and finally the empowerment to share the Good News from the Holy Spirit. The toe dipping into Easter joy today is totally reasonable and human.
So is your toe dipping today. If you are not ready to throw off your outer garment and shout at the mountaintops, “Jesus is Risen! All is well in the world!” that is totally reasonable and human. The Church is here to keep telling you the story, to send women with a fantastic tale, to remind you hope is still possible, and joy is inevitable. But the Church is also here to sit with you in quiet rooms, holding your hand, and whispering Good News until you are ready to step firmly onto the ground without hesitation. Spring has melted the ice, Easter has brought promise, and Jesus lives. We are here to take the first steps together. Amen.