We are Easter people now!

“Where do we go from here,” we ask ourselves on this Monday morning after Easter. It’s as if we took off smudged glasses and wiped them crystal clean, for a moment. “I have seen the Lord,” says Mary Magdalene, before she dashed off to tell the world. Yes, we see! Yes, indeed, we have seen the Lord. He is risen. I have been handed new glasses. I see everything differently!

Our pastor preached brilliantly about this extraordinary story of Mary Magdalene meeting the crucified-yet-risen Jesus in the garden of the tomb. I’ve written too about this story, most recently in my latest book Sing Us A Song Of Joy. It’s early in the morning, the third day after that brutal, bloody cross stunned the followers of Jesus into silence and terror. We last saw Jesus hanging on that lonely hill of humiliation. Religious power had won. Roman power had conquered once again. No way for the little people to escape the power of these forces of darkness, Mary must have mused. The light had been snuffed out again. A dark fog settled down over the land.

And then, with dew still on the flowers, Mary returns. She carries with her a heavy burden of grief. She is weeping. She had cast her lot with the one who would liberate her people from the clutches of ugly power. He had seemed so full of life, so generous, so full of love in a harsh loveless place, so strong. And then it all collapsed with sudden, crushing force. Mary comes to the garden hopeless again. A time to grieve. A time to regroup perhaps, but first the weeping.

And then she hears someone talking. At first she thinks it’s the voice of the gardener. Things are blurry. Nothing is clear. The world’s askew. But Jesus calls out her name, “Mary, why are you weeping?” Suddenly she gets it, or gets something. She knows that voice. How can this be? It is he, my teacher. It is my Lord, my dearest friend. He is talking to me. He knows my name. He is apparently as alive as ever. What can this possibly mean? Something penetrates her deeply. She knows. She sees. While so many question what they are seeing through these days, Mary does not question. She rushes off to tell her community: “I have seen the Lord.” I see with new eyes. I see something utterly new, something never before. I see. I see everything now.

This is what happens to us on Easter. It happened for me afresh yesterday. It was startling. With inspired preaching, brilliant music, appropriate liturgical practices—well, Jesus stepped into our midst. I could feel my eyes open. It happens all the time, I know, but it seemed fresh as ever. My eyes were opened. Some rush of new life swept through me. I felt light and joyous. It doesn’t have to end in darkness, discouragement, the mundane, even death. It can be life. It can be new sun breaking through the grimy fog.

And so we turn to Monday. What in the world do we do now? Will it all turn to ash? Will it all turn flat and mundane and confused again? Was the garden actually one of those mountain tops from which we always return to the valley below? Return to the dirty glasses? Well, sure, life is life. It’s never perfect. Such moments are the bright threads that color the whole fabric. Somehow I know I must make this venture into the garden, with Mary Magdalene, something every day, each morning. That’s what I’m working on. I can go into my prayer corner with blurry, bleary eyes, but once again, I can hear the familiar voice calling my name, sometimes faintly, sometimes crystal clear. Lots of things to do on Monday morning, but maybe first we grow silent enough to hear someone calling. I can come out of my morning garden announcing, to myself and anyone who will hear me, “I have seen the Lord.” I can see again. I can actually see everything clearly.