Originally published in the April 2015 edition of The Lutheran. Republished with the magazine’s permission.
Easter, the preachers and theologians tell us, is the pinnacle of the church’s liturgical life.
With the lighting of the Easter Vigil’s new fire, we proclaim that death no longer has the last word. When the morning comes, it will do so with golden paraments and lilies, with well-rehearsed choirs and perhaps some brass to accompany the congregation. When morning comes, we will offer confident call-and-response proclamations and revive the hallelujahs from their Lenten game of hide-and-go-seek.
If we’re lucky, even worship attendance will momentarily rise along with Christ, and for at least an hour (a little more if the pastor is feeling inspired), the church itself will be alive again.
Yet at times I’ve wondered if all of this reflects paschal mystery or paschal predictability.
Easter is about a lot of things, but predictability isn’t one of them. The Gospel narratives tell us the morning at the tomb was a fearful, doubt-filled surprise for Jesus’ friends, despite the promises of the Scriptures and Jesus’ predictions.
When Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, she goes to embrace him. He says: “Don’t cling to me.” So what do we cling to that prevents us from experiencing Easter as mystery? What fears and doubts might we avoid facing with paschal predictability?
When we light the Vigil’s new fire this Easter, may we resist the urge to ignite only a controlled burn. May the Easter Vigil flames blaze in us and illuminate a surprising way forward.