“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb….” While it was still dark.
It’s hardly the way we’ve come to expect world-changing events–in the quiet dark. We’re used to blinding lights and blaring sirens. Shock and awe. Displays of power that rumble through our bodies and assault the senses.
Before that became our custom and expectation, before computer-generated-effects and apocalyptic bombs, it was in the dark, the “rich and holy Eves,” as Nancy Rockwell calls them, that the world changed–”times of wonder and power, times when people go out in darkness and gather by candlelight.” All religious cultures have “rich and holy eves,” and Christianity has several–Christmas Eve, All Hallows Eve, Easter Eve. “They teach us we cannot find God simply in light alone,” she says. [The Bite in the Apple, 4/2/17]
So here, this morning, just as Easter Eve is fading, we join our sister Mary Magdalene as she comes to the tomb, “while it was still dark,” and see that the stone has been rolled away. In the dark, the world has changed. Not in a blinding flash of light, but “in holy darkness, muddled in mystery, [he has risen] not spectacularly but surprising us with joy.” [Rockwell]
We’re not used to thinking of darkness in a good way. We talk about “darkness descending over the land,” spreading gloom and heaviness. We imagine demons and ill-intentioned figures stalking in the darkness. We say we live in “dark times,” when terror holds the world captive, when ignorance and lies are rampant, division and mistrust tear us apart, with wars and rumors of war all around. Or maybe it’s the weight and darkness of depression, the light gone out of our world with the loss of a loved one, the unknown future of unemployment. “While it was still dark” may seem like the perfect description of our day.
But God is the Creator of both dark and light, of both night and day. Nancy Rockwell reminds us that “Every good thing God does among us arises in the dark–slaves leave Egypt. Jonah discovers faith inside the whale. The Ark bobbles on the sea of survival in forty dark days. A child is born. And Easter happens.” [Ibid.]
Even now, in our “dark times,” God is at work, changing the world, bringing new life, raising the dead. The darkness may hide this holy power from our sight, but that does not mean a new heaven and new earth are not being created even as we sit here. We may have to feel our way through the darkness, better yet, hold another’s hand in the darkness, keep vigil over the places where we can wait for God, and then allow our eyes to adjust in the coming dawn. “In holy darkness, muddled in mystery,” God is surprising us with joy. God is calling us by name, feeding us with grace. Even now, while it is still dark, new life is dawning. Thanks be to God!
Rev. Mary H. Lee-Clark