In response to the questions I asked friends and family in the last post, I got an email from my brother Josh Coblentz that I thought was worth sharing in its entirety. I offer it here, with his permission. The following words are from his informal but careful space: thoughts for a sister.
“At Trinity School for Ministry, I heard a lot of ‘already and not yet’ kind of language, mostly referring to the reign of Christ breaking in upon the kingdoms of this world. The kingdom ‘already’ here but ‘not yet’ in its fullness. I’m sure you’ve heard that a lot. I groan when I hear it now because it’s so cliché. In response to your question, nevertheless, this cliché is what came to mind. It strikes me how incredibly trite some of our Lent and Easter celebrations can become. I emphasize can because they are not automatically trite, nor are they trite simply for being ritual or tradition. Far from it. I mean to point out how easily Lent and Easter traditions can take shallow form, even becoming distanced from the hard reality of our everyday existence, as if, perhaps, on Easter morning one would expect, somehow, that the world would be right enough to celebrate its Christ-given life. 🙂
“I know most of us probably have enough hard bumps and bruises on a daily basis that we do not consciously think of the Church’s Lent and Easter celebrations in this way but I would not be surprised if we don’t feel, in our guts that is, that our life ought to be something like this. Sad during Lent, happy during Easter. I think one of the blessings (if I may call it that) of this Easter in particular is that it forces us to reach deeper into our guts, even to this deep lament of an isolated Easter morning, and let the ‘not yet’ seize us and find soft ground.
“Easter has not yet rooted out the reality of death and isolation which continue to wreak havoc in the world. This Easter forces us, I think, to look forward, more so than we perhaps normally do. Not being able to share our Easter morning together is certainly, in the broad scope of things, a very small detail under the much greater devastation the shroud of death casts. And from that perspective, I can sense more easily how this quiet Easter brings that reality closer to us, to our guts I mean, existentially, than it can possibly when we can eat a donut on Easter morning and watch our children sing together their Easter anthems.
“Please understand, I don’t mean to sugar coat this thing nor am I suggesting that these traditions are not meaningful. They are meaningful, and social isolation is a hell. Living into Easter (or anticipating it) in this way has allowed me to appreciate more deeply the certain victory of Christ over death. The anticipation of the final reign of God’s life and peace has me shaking in my boots.
‘But share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel’ (2 Tim 1:8-10, ESV).”
– Josh Coblentz
That’s from my brother Josh. What thoughts do you have to add? How are you feeling, these strange and wonderful and dangerous days?
Each Easter week, I read the four Gospel accounts of the resurrection Sunday. This week, as I read, I am drawn to the fact that the emotions of Jesus’ followers as they approached the tomb were fear, grief, and confusion. The world as they knew it had gone kaput. And they didn’t know how to carry on. Sound familiar to the world of 2020? Somehow, this reflection comforts me. The Risen Lord is still the answer for me and the broken world today.
Thanks Josh Coblentz for these powerful thoughts and reminders. You capture what I was feeling but couldn’t express. This acknowledgement that this Easter we really know in deeper ways the world is broken and we are still living with sin and the curse – and yet what we see as reality is not actually reality. True reality is Jesus has broken the curse of sin and while we don’t see that fully realized yet, it is still true. What anticipation! The ability to grieve the “trivial” things, because my “hard” is hard for me and these things need to be grieved, AND grasp in a new way the promise of the new covenant reality is what I want to remember this Easter!
Thank you Josh. I appreciate your post as it reminded me of how I’ve been lamenting or perhaps more like whining over not being able to fellowship on Easter morning with my church family. I somehow unintentionally forgot about the true meaning of Resurrection Sunday. I will certainly be singing Christ’s resurrection hymns tomorrow with new meaning.
Thank you again Josh and thank you Shari for this post with us.
Oops! That should have “thank you Shari for sharing this post with us.”
YES. Good words, Josh. I get uncomfortable with too much happy-clappy, everything-is-fixed on Easter Sunday. There is still a shadow edge to our joy, the edge of continued waiting for full redemption of creation, and surely Christianity is robust enough to acknowledge it. Both exist without cancelling each other out, but I’ve experienced the coexistence in a different way this Easter than before. (Except maybe the year Easter came a few weeks after the funeral of a friend.)
I’ve also felt more connected to the setting of the first Easter morning: small, lonely, grief-laden, in a politically unstable environment.