The Scriptures tell us that, “Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise,” some of Jesus’ closest friends “went to the tomb” where Jesus had been buried. They didn’t have a well-developed plan, but they wanted to pay their respects. I felt similarly this morning, when my eyes fluttered open at just the faintest hint of the skies growing ever-so-slightly brighter in the east. I looked to see when the sun was supposed to rise — about forty-five minutes from that moment — and I decided to go for a solitary sunrise hike on this Easter morning.
The Scriptures tell us that, “On the way [to Jesus’ tomb, his friends] were asking each other, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside. When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, ‘Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.'”
Our family tried a Son-Rise Sun-Rise Hike last year, and it didn’t work out as well as we’d hoped. Thick gray clouds obscured the horizon, just as the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic obscured the rest of our lives. The kids were tired and grumpy. We didn’t know how to deal with all the chaos and disruption of family events, church events, school events, and such. This year, however, the skies were much clearer. And so was my perspective. I went to the woods for my Easter worship because I like going to the woods for worship (not because I couldn’t figure out anything better to do). I appreciate the stillness. My soul soaks up the clarity at the start of a new day. My heart rejoices in the hope of renewal.
I didn’t see any angels at Towner’s Woods this morning. But I did see a Bald Eagle. I heard the cry of a Pileated Woodpecker in the distance. I may have even seen a Porcupine (or, if not a Porcupine, a very large Skunk)! And I definitely saw the Sun rising in the east on Resurrection Sunday.
The earliest and most reliable manuscripts of the Scriptures finish their account of Resurrection Sunday with a cliff-hanger, saying that Jesus’ friends “fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.” I can’t really blame them for their confusion and fear. In fact, I was in a very similar place this time last year. But this year, I found reassurance in the fact that we’ve fought the good fight. We’ve kept the faith. Even if we responded poorly in the first flush of confusion and chaos, we found a way forward. And now the word is out: Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed.