Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
Christ is risen indeed, alleluia!

This magnificent story of Jesus’ resurrection, that starts with the line “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark,” (John 20:1) reminds me of one of my favorite Easter traditions from when I was growing up.

Back in those days, Christ’s Lutheran Church in Woodstock used to go up to an old bluestone quarry on Good Friday to enact the Stations of the Cross. We would then rebuild a stone altar to support the wooden cross we had taken turns carrying up the mountainside, so that the cross and altar would be there waiting when we gathered back in that same location at sunrise on Easter morning for worship.

Those mornings were full of beauty, awe, and wonder, but there were also some funny moments as well. Such as the year that one person brought a dog. And everyone was smiling and enjoying the dog’s presence among us. Until the dog lifted his leg and peed on one of the people gathered for worship.

At least it wasn’t a particularly sacred portion of the worship service - only the distribution of Holy Communion! The pastor was saying “The body of Christ, given for you. The body of Christ, given for you,” while the assisting minister was saying “The blood of Christ, shed for you, the blood of Christ shed for you,” and then suddenly there was a gasp and when we looked around we saw the dog trotting off happily and poor Bob standing there with a wet stain forming down the side of his trousers, which were of course his best trousers, fresh back from the cleaners because, you know, it was Easter and all.

I can’t say it was always dark on Easter morning, as in the gospel story, but most Easter mornings we hiked up the hillside in grey pre-dawn light. The husband of one of the members of the congregation would have already hiked up into the quarry early, early, so as to be playing his bagpipes as everyone else made the climb. We mostly didn’t talk, so as to listen to the bagpipes and sounds of the birds singing, but also because there was a kind of hushed expectation to this Easter morning pilgrimage. Indeed, there was something mysterious about those mornings that helped make real the stories of the empty tomb and angels and Mary learning that Jesus had been resurrected. That long ago first day of the week in the darkness time was also our first day of the week in the darkness time to meet our Savior, who sparing nothing, had climbed up to the cross and down into the grave. To meet our Savior who was now risen with love expansive enough to include us all, this whole world.

Yes, this much is clear, that we were gathered then, as we are today, to celebrate something awe-inspiring, sacred, holy, quiet and beautiful.

On this Easter day we are invited into the awe and mystery and we are also invited into the laughter and joy. We are drawn into the awe and mystery and a two thousand year history of God who has laid claim to us in baptism and freed us for new life by the cross. And we are drawn into the joy and laughter of this day with pancake breakfasts and joyous hymn singing and Easter Egg Hunts and memories of happy Easters past.

It is once again the first day of the week, but by God’s work in Christ all of the darkness has been and will be conquered and vanquished forevermore. We have arrived to the Feast of the Resurrection, and we celebrate that our lives and this world, with all of their joys and sorrows, are God’s territory, now and forever.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen indeed! Alleluia!