Op-Ed: On Easter, remembering that light overcomes darkness

March 30, 2012
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By Rev. Ashlee Wiest-Laird, Special to the Gazette

Easter always begins in darkness.

The women who were with Jesus had seen their friend and teacher tortured and killed. They watched as his lifeless body was placed in the cold tomb; then they went home and waited in despair for the Sabbath to end.  Having prepared spices and oils to anoint Jesus’ body, they set out for his grave as soon as sun had given way to shadow.  How fearful they must have been. Surely this wasn’t real. Surely Jesus, the one they loved and in whom they hoped, had not been crucified like a criminal. Why had God abandoned him? Had God abandoned them all?

Easter always begins in darkness.

In the despair of our lives when we ask, “Why, God, why?”

When the diagnosis is cancer or the grief tears us apart.

When our fears consume us or loneliness haunts.

When trust is betrayed and hope forgotten.

In the desolation of our world when we cry out, “God, have you forsaken us?”

When violence and abuse steals the joy from our children.

When greed and prejudice divide and conquer.

When oppression and injustice destroy lives and dreams.

Easter always begins in darkness, when the way ahead is shrouded with fear and uncertainty.

The women were terrified when they saw the empty tomb. There was no guarantee it meant anything but that insult had been added to injury. But in that moment the messengers of God called Jesus’ followers to remember his words and promises. Remember how he said he would die and rise again? Remember how he taught that the God of Creation was also the God of liberation, the God of love and hope?

Easter may always begin in darkness, but it is in the darkness that we are called to remember—to remember what has brought us this far. And so, to refresh our short-lived memories, we bring forth symbols of our faith that remind us who we are.

The Hebrew people celebrated the Passover meal to stir their devotion to the God of deliverance. We still share the bread and the cup—remembering God’s open invitation to all who need “good news.”

We touch the water and recall our baptism—remembering the conviction and commitment that started us on this spiritual journey.

We lift high the cross and think of Good Friday—remembering that if we follow Jesus, we are not immune to suffering, but rather find ourselves more vulnerable.

We light a candle and proclaim that Christ leads us into the light—remembering that the light shines in the darkness and that the darkness cannot put it out.

While Easter always begins in darkness, it never fails to carry us through memory to utter amazement.

The women remembered and believed, but when they told the story to the other disciples, it seemed impossible, ridiculous. Who would have possibly believed it? Resurrection? Who could believe it still? There is too much evil in the world, too much that’s random, senseless, painful. Why should we believe? But Peter ran to the tomb anyway. He saw that it was empty. Perhaps it was true after all…

Darkness overcome by Light.

Despair conquered by Hope.

Fear displaced by Love.

Death swallowed up by Life.

And as the Sun began to rise on the horizon, Peter stood there, amazed. By the grace of God, may we, too, remember and believe.

Rev. Ashlee Wiest-Laird is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain.

Best of JP 2014