The previous two Easters we've gathered with friends and we've read the book of John out loud. Our black chair with multicolored circles is designated the reading chair. We rotate reading a chapter at a time out loud. There are twenty-one chapters in John so we take a brief break after chapters seven and fourteen. All together it is three hours of stunning oration. The oration isn't stunning because James Earl Jones or Meryl Streep has joined us. It's stunning because it is our little common group, our common community of everyday voices speaking the profound story of mercy, suffering and Life of God.
Hearing the word read in a plethora of voices impacts my soul. To hear the gospel in both feminine and masculine voice reaches new and uncharted waters inside me. Also, readers have remarked how the chapter, rather Jesus through the chapter, that came up for their reading touched tenderly an area of importance in his or her soul.
I'm impacted by Jesus own tender dealings with those that are deemed 'less than' throughout the reading. He heals the lame and blind, reveals his true self to an outcast woman at a well, protects and speaks words of life to a woman caught in adultery, and provides meaning for his friends with regards to his life on earth and his death on the cross.
Ultimately, it is the cross that gets me. As the evening progresses, there as a slow motion dread that builds within, hearing the dogged, inexorable march of Jesus to his crucifixion on the cross. I grow fond of Jesus as his narrative, the narrative of God on earth, rests on our room and my heart. I don't want him, so loving and courageous, to die.
But die he does. His death tears at my scalp and back, vibrates in my wrists and shins, and pounds and pounds my chest, where my grief tends to physically reside. Even though I know the story isn't over, I ache and ache and wish there was another way the story could go than persistently and unavoidably through the dead center of the cross.
The book of John records the burial of Jesus but doesn't say much about his followers during that terrible thirty-six hours or so while he is in the tomb. Tomb time. That's what I call most of affair recovery. The great trauma has happened, and the resurrection isn't yet known to be true. It's a mysterious, painful time.
Then John and Peter run to the tomb and take note of the absence of Jesus' body. They leave. Mary Magdalene remains at the tomb weeping. She weeps just as Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus. I believe there is meaning in his approaching a woman and a woman in tears. Her grief leads her to an encounter with Jesus.
Always the question asker, he asks, "Why do you weep? Whom do you seek?" It almost seems playful. He then speaks her name, 'Mary' and she recognizes him. He is risen.
Grief provides us a pathway from our story to the larger story of God. His life and interaction with others touches our deepest longings to be seen and loved. His death rips at our hearts touching the part that was ripped 370 days ago by the revelation of an affair. In tomb time we reside in mystery. The ache becomes a real part of our lives and we get somewhat used to it, though we are most always ready for it to leave. With his resurrection and the speaking of our names we know God sees us in our grief. He comes towards us with good intentions towards our hearts, even though he allowed great pain. He comes in peace.
Reflect for yourself on the same questions Jesus asks Mary: Why do you weep? Whom (and what) do you seek?