After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women,
‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him”. This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Matthew 28:1-8
William Sangster was one of the great preachers of the 20th century. Towards the end of his life, he became quite ill. His vocal cords were paralyzed and he was unable to speak. On the Easter Sunday morning just before he died, he painfully printed a short note to his daughter. In it he wrote these poignant words: "How terrible to wake up on Easter and have no voice to shout, 'He is risen!' but it is far worse to have a voice and not want to shout."
Shouting is so un-Anglican… can you imagine what might unfold if we began our worship every Sunday by shouting, crowing at the top of our lungs? At the very least, a call to the Bishop’s office would be in order… and yet, part of me cannot help but think that at some level, the first disciples must have shouted… some in fear, some in joy, some in confusion, not sure how they should respond, but shouting all the same.
Shouting represents the escalation of emotion… the very pinnacle of our raw, unreserved passion. If you’ve ever been pushed beyond all reasonable limits of frustration, you’ve probably shouted. If you’ve ever sunk a 25’ putt, you’ve probably shouted. If you’ve ever landed a promotion that you had spent untold hours preparing for, you’ve probably shouted. All of these pale in comparison to the significance of the resurrection, that which is central to our faith. Without Easter morning, we have no reason to be. As people of faith, the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is the single most important event in the whole of human history, and yet, how politely, how reservedly we make this proclamation on Easter morning, and always in the perfect cadence of liturgy.
We have just marked the first anniversary of the declaration of being in a global pandemic, and life is far from being back to normal… masks still needing to be worn, distance to be observed and in-person worship suspended once again, as we find ourselves in the Red Zone. There is truly a longing to go back to the way it was, which in every way, I suspect, echoes what the disciples were feeling. But as life for them would never be the same, so too it is for us in the midst of this pandemic; and yet, despite all that has happened this year, we gather anew, albeit virtually, to celebrate the joy of the resurrection and the impact that it continues to make.
Those first disciples can be excused for failing to recognize the implications of the empty tomb, as they first encountered it, but not us. As we mark this second year of not being able to gather and make our joyful proclamation, it is all the more important for us to, with one voice, share that most incredible news of our Lord’s resurrection, for as Rev. Sangster noted, the only thing worse than not having a voice to announce the resurrection, is having one, and not using it.
This Easter, let us enter his gates with Joy…let us, as the psalmist invites, proclaim that “this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it”, and let us, with joy proclaim:
HE IS RISEN, THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED… ALLELUIA!