Easter – Can we rejoice?

On Sunday the church celebrated Easter: the defeat of death by life.

It’s a truth I am confident with in the abstract but which confounds me when in the concrete.

Death is loss-of-life and small deaths and small griefs happen every day – if anything is – death seems certain.

And yet, my faith is bold to claim that this certainty is untrue because a first century Palestinian Jew who was put to death as a criminal, was seen living after his death: the bodily resurrection of a crucified corpse.

My faith is bold to claim that the people who died in Sri Lanka on Sunday will live again.

My faith is bold to claim the two teachers who tragically lost their lives on holiday in Santorini this week will live again.

My faith is bold to claim that everyone you have ever lost or grieved is not truly gone – they will live again.

Isn’t that the most outrageous thing you have ever heard?

This Holy Week and Easter I have been struck by the way the accounts of the gospels do not offer this turn of events up as a simple, pure or cheap joy. Rather, the accounts offer shock, fear, and a bemused lack of recognition.

So often, I long for justice and joy to be more present in the world. I long for what is lost to be found again and for what is gone to return.

So often, I don’t let myself believe in the possibility of life in death, and where there are signs of that truth I am more likely to react in fear than in joy.

And that’s ok.

Unqualified hope is difficult to understand when death is your certainty.

I am comforted by the confused, messy, human reactions to Jesus’ resurrection: they match my own.

But how thankful I am that in the darkest, bleakest times, I can truthfully hold to the belief that death is not the end and that resurrection of all forms of life is possible.

We can rejoice.

When we are all despairing,
when the world is full of grief, 
when we see no way ahead 
and hope has gone away: 
Roll back the stone.
Although we fear change, 
although we are not ready, 
although we’d rather weep 
and run away: 
Roll back the stone.
Because we’re coming with the women, 
because we hope where hope is vain, 
because you call us from the grave 
and show the way: 
Roll back the stone.

Janet Morely