Preparing for Worship – George Mason, senior pastor.
Easter Sunday culminates a Holy Week of contrasts. On Maundy Thursday, the lights were dimmed, the last candle of Lent having been extinguished and only the Christ candle flickering as it exited the darkened Sanctuary. Death is at hand. The Bible is loudly closed. We can almost feel the last breath leaving our Lord and hear the stone being rolled into place at his garden tomb.
We sit with all of this for a time — three days, the way the Jews would have counted: today, tomorrow and the next day, regardless of hours. Jesus died on what we call Good Friday, and he was raised on what we call Easter Sunday. In many ways, this is where we live even now: between the shadow of death and the hope of resurrection life to come.
When the shutters are thrown open this morning (pity the church without shutters!), sunlight bursts into the room — blinding some of us, raising the hopes of all of us. We feel resurrection before we understand it. We sense the contradictions of darkness with light, evil with good, death with life. It’s my favorite liturgical moment of the year, closely followed by the slamming shut of the Bible a few nights earlier. Wilshire worship traditions are aesthetically rich.
Van Gogh’s “Wheatfield with Crows under a Stormy Sky” presents us with similar contrasts. The foreboding heavens, the fertile field, the red road that seems to end at the horizon, and the hovering crows. Crows artistically represent the transition from death to life, the transformational process from the physical to the spiritual. This painting was one of Vincent’s last. It must have encoded the contradiction of his own emotional despair and spiritual hope.
We don’t really come to church on Easter to understand the resurrection as much as to experience it. Christ is at loose now in the world, and God is still raising the dead. Nothing is safe, even our fear and dread. Happy Easter, church.