By Michael Simmons
Today is the Monday after Easter. For many Easter is a single day and for others it is a season. Either way Easter is not a date or a length of time - it is a movement that happens in us, and makes its way out of us into the world, into creation. Easter is when life dies and is transformed into something far greater, far more human, and yet far more Divine.
On the first Easter, two of Jesus' friends were walking the 11 kilometers from Jerusalem to Emmaus after a very disappointing Passover celebration. They had lost their friend, their teacher, and their hope. They walked with their heads down, maybe in shame, likely in deep shock and perhaps contemplating the news of visions of angels and an empty tomb. We envy their walk this Easter as social distancing has stripped us all the way down past the quick of basic community. Walking with friends sounds wonderful today.
For these two travelers to Emmaus something very ordinary occurred - the transformed Jesus joins them, though they are unaware of who he is. Jesus asks, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” (Luke 24:17 NIV) One of the two responds, and I’m paraphrasing, Are you an idiot? Where have you been? Do you really not know what is going on? The disciple’s response is exactly how I feel right now when I see two people hug in Fred Meyer or when the Georgia state government, less than a few weeks ago, discovered COVID-19 could be transmitted asymptomatically… but enough about that.
These two men are in the shock of grief and Jesus is coy with them, and before us unfolds a kind of dark comedy where Jesus walked alongside two friends who felt nothing but his absence. And maybe this is the message today - Easter is often disguised. We can not see it, and if it is true of Easter we may unknowingly walk alongside it for some time. And I do not think it is tricking or toying with us instead it is taking us all the way down and through, digging deeper than we would like.
We have lived these forty days of Lent under quarantine. (How fitting that quarantine comes from the Italian quarantena meaning a forty day period.) Ash Wednesday introduced the first case of community spread coronavirus in the United States - Ash to ash, dust to dust. Lent was not optional this year. It stripped our humanity down, and though today is Easter, it is still Lent. Still things are not as they should be, we are not reunited with our communities, people are dying, the poor are taken advantage of, injustice is rampant, and we must continue to mourn. And it is also Easter, because all this death is forming something far greater, more human, and yet far more Divine.
When quarantine first began, I remember walking into the Newberg Bakery to buy bread, and the only other customer in line was a dear friend - a friend I would always embrace anytime we saw each other. When I turned around I remember looking at him and my body wanted to come close for a hug, but I could not. We stared at each other, and whether it was as holy of a moment for him as me I do not know, but I felt my heart sink, both with deep sadness and deep love, maybe deeper than if we had hugged. This was an Easter moment for me not because it was celebratory, instead it was human, more human than before and therefore more Divine.
Our eyes are being opened when we see a familiar face for the first time in days; our lives are becoming more embodied as we live so terribly disembodied from those we love and those who love us. We are coming alive as we go all the way into this darkness with no comedic relief. Easter does not always require a sunrise service, or forced hallelujahs. Maybe the best news about Easter is we do not have to be excited for it, because it is walking alongside us regardless of how deep or shallow we feel. If this quarantena has taught us anything it is that Easter has been walking with us all along, just in disguise.
Finally, I want to share piece of art that has impacted me these past days. Kate Tempest is a spoken word artist/poet who wrote a piece called People’s Face, which Facebook turned into a short video. Check it out here. Also, here is the full length audio. Take time to let these words and images wash over you.
In the name of True Father, Mother, Friend, Sibling, who is often disguised, but is always with us.
Michael is a spiritual director, retreat facilitator and writer. You can find out more at Innerwork Community Website and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to check out Michael and Liz's (spouse) podcast, The Profaned Ordained, on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.