“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’ But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.”
–Mark 16:1-5 (NRSV)
The women were there, to the very end. They watched as his body was taken down and wrapped in linen and placed in a tomb. I imagine them wailing, keening… or perhaps their limbs felt as heavy as their hearts. Perhaps you, too, have experienced that spectrum from raging to frozen grief.
The earliest telling of the story ends in bewilderment, for the women of the story and for the reader alike: “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid."
Could Jesus really rise again? Could it really be that the violence of empire and the pain of loss would be denied the final word? In that ancient telling, we don’t get an answer. There is no resolution. There is no certainty. There is only a seed of complicated hope and the persistence of human love to help it grow.
What strikes me about the ancient text is that is was not only Jesus who rose up that morning. It was also the women who loved him, who rose up from the pit of their grief to tend to him. It was also the movement that his teaching sparked: a community who rose up to spread his message of power in weakness and the victory of love.
Is new life possible? Is love stronger, even, than death? The question itself invites us to rise up, and to live as though it were true—to make it true in our living.
The lesson for the women, for the forces of Empire, for us is this: You can crush Love down, bury it, cover it over, but it will rise. It will reach for the sun, and we will reach for each other.
Love will have the final word, even if that word is just a question, a wild possibility, a whisper to rise and follow wherever it may lead. Communities formed and nurtured in love will rise up for and with each other again and again.
If we've learned nothing else these years, it is this: Even when everything is uncertain, even when we are grieving, even when the loss keeps coming, even when we are forced apart, even when we are bone-weary, we keep reaching for one another. We keep rising in love.
Source of love, rise as the spring in our overwintered hearts. Help us stretch from the dark and nourishing soil to the bright and nurturing sunlight. Help us reach one another. Love us back to life in all its fullness as we blossom and unfold amid days that will always contain beauty and terror alike. No matter what else they may hold, may each day contain impossible, inexorable, blooming love. Amen.