“Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” -Nathaniel Hawthrone
Photo by Alan Emery on Unsplash
As I was preparing worship and a sermon for what would be my last Sunday at Peakland United Methodist as their Associate Minister, the communications coordinator, Kim, shared with me the bulletin cover she designed. It had a key verse from one of the scriptures I was using and a picture of a butterfly. It was perfect on all sorts of levels.
I hesitated to ask her to change anything. Finally, I asked if it would be possible to make the orange butterfly a yellow butterfly. She gave me one of those, “that’s an odd request” look, and then said, “Sure.”
My father-in-law was in town a few weeks ago. We took him up to the Blue Ridge Parkway one day to explore the mountains and its trails. Spring has just started and the trees are still barren and dry leaves still litter the ground.
Yet, there were signs of spring.
A number of years ago while part of a work camp in Durham, North Carolina, I was assigned to work with a group of young people on the house of an elderly African-American woman. Before even meeting her, I was informed that she was a cancer survivor who had adopted her two granddaughters. I decided that I was not going to get to close to this woman. I was going to be there for the young people and minister to them. That, I had decided, was my purpose that week.
Read John 20:1-18.
Easter will forever be a deeply personal day for me. Thirteen years ago on Easter Sunday, I was congregated in the choir loft of the small United Methodist Church I grew up in. I had promised my Aunt Polly that though I was starting a new job that week at another church, I would sing Easter Sunday in the choir.
It was in that choir loft that had an encounter with Jesus that gave me new eyes.
For the previous seven months my Dad was fighting prostate cancer. After being misdiagnosed with a pinched nerve, a new doctor found the tumor. It was a large and fast moving tumor. After rounds of chemo and radiation, surgery, and pints and pints of morphine, Dad was getting weaker and weaker.
Read Matthew 27:57-66.
The stone has been rolled in place.
Death has been sealed.
And all is silent.
The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is sometimes quickly breezed over. It is the bridge between the darkness of Friday and the light of Easter. The bridge between death and resurrection. And it is a day marked by silence.
Nothing is happening. Nothing, that is, expect to mourn. The sealed tomb echoes throughout the hearts of Christians that death is final; that Jesus was as human as he was divine; and the eagerness of which we wait for the resurrection.
But before the resurrection – before new beginnings – before new life – there is mourning. Change happens. It is built into the very fiber of creation. Yet, what will be will only be until we mourn what was. When we gaze upon the stone that has been placed at the entrance of the borrowed tomb, we gaze upon what was as we anticipate what will be.
The tomb gives us permission to mourn.
This is an important and gracious gift. Death makes us uncomfortable. We would much rather engulf ourselves with resurrection and new life than spend an hour, much less a day, surrounded by death. And yet, we mourn at the sealed tomb. We mourn what was, we mourn what was not, and we mourn who we were. With the resurrection, things change, things that were not will be, and we will never be the same again.
So, today, on this Holy Saturday, as we gaze at the sealed tomb, let us mourn what was and who we were in anticipation of the resurrection.