We just experienced a storm blowing in from the north east, a weather phenomenon known as a “nor’easter”. And not just one, but four! Now the Christian feast of Easter has nothing to do with the direction of storms. The word “easter” was derived from the Old English name of a goddess of Spring. And that also has nothing to do with why Christians celebrate this holy season of 50 days.
But allow me to make some observations about the recent storms and this holiest of Christian feasts. Both disrupt our lives. When the snow and floods came to Long Island, schools were closed, people stayed home from work and went into hiding in their homes. Life wasn’t normal.
When the day of Easter happened 2000 years ago, the lives of the followers of Jesus weren’t normal either. He was their teacher, their leader, the one they hoped would free them from illness, sin and oppression. And now he was dead. They went into hiding. Their lives and hopes were shut down.
During the nor’easters, families spent more time together than usual. Of course these days it didn’t mean they interacted any more than usual. Smart phones, x-boxes, tablets, computers and TV still ruled the day, unless they lost electricity. Then they had to figure out how to do things together for a change.
At the first Easter, Jesus’ disciples didn’t initially know that Jesus had risen from the dead. So they too were figuring out how to do things on their own. I can only imagine the dysfunction of those hours — grief, blaming each other for their roles in abandoning him as he headed off to crucifixion, anger, disbelief and doubt. It was worse than a blackout.
Snowy nor’easters can also bring out the best in people. Neighbors look after each other. People help each other shovel. They share food and stories. Families re-discover how to have fun with each other as they build snowmen or go sledding. There’s an atmosphere of fun and joy.
The first Easter also saw levels of care and joy. The women disciples got up early in the morning and headed for the place where Jesus was buried so they could prepare his body in a more traditional way. But when they got to the tomb and discovered that his body was not there, they were at first filled with fear. But then they met the risen Jesus and the fear turned to joy.
When we live through storms, we need to tell others the stories of how we survived. One of our church members narrowly escaped being killed when a tree fell on powerlines that fell onto his car, crushing everything but the driver’s seat. A local household took him in and eventually his family joined their family for a few hours of conversation as they waited for the first responders to finish their work. Others could tell less dramatic stories, but we all have stories — some get published on social media as they are happening.
The bible accounts of the first Easter don’t spend much time describing how Jesus rose from the dead. The energy in the gospels is all around his disciples spreading the news of his resurrection. There was no Facebook then, so everything had to be spread by word of mouth. And the announcement of his rising was doubted and challenged by some as much as it was accepted by others. I shudder to think of how that news would be debated in the comment section online if Jesus had risen today instead of two millennia ago.
The Feast of Easter takes place over the next three days: Holy Thursday, when Jesus gathered his apostles for the Last Supper; Good Friday when he is crucified; and then the great Saturday night Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday morning when Christians remember that death wasn’t the final chapter of the story of life that goes on til this day. We survived the nor’easters. May we thrive through the fifty days of the season of Easter ahead!