Easter is my favorite season.
Matthew says on Easter morning Mary Magdalene and another woman also named Mary were going to visit the tomb where they had placed Jesus after he was killed. Can you imagine how they must have felt, Grayce? Have you ever been so sad that you wondered if you would ever feel happy again? They must have felt that way. They watched their teacher – their friend – die on the cross. He helped them feel closer to God. He taught them how to love one another. And now he was gone. Would they ever be happy again?
When they get to the grave, they feel the earth shaking. Matthew says an angel came from heaven and rolled the heavy stone that sat in front of Jesus’ tomb. Then the angel just sat on the stone, dangling his feet over the edge. His first words them were, “Do not be afraid.”
You know how you and all your friends come to the church on the Saturday before Easter and hunt eggs? If you notice, the cross in the Courtyard is draped in black on that day. The black cloth helps us remember that Jesus was still dead in the grave on that Saturday long ago. You and your church friends hunt all those brightly-colored, treat-filled eggs on the same day that Mary and her friends were crying because they were sad and afraid. I used to think that maybe we shouldn’t be hunting eggs on such a sad day. But then I saw something that changed my mind.
A few years ago we put a Memorial Garden in our Courtyard. We built a beautiful brick wall, and a grassy space where we could bury the ashes of members of our church family after they die. Sometimes when we stand next to that wall we are very sad and afraid. Someone we love has died and we miss them very much. We wonder what life will be like without people like Millard, Margot, Nick, Charles, Lillian, Gloria, John, and Betty.
When we first built the Memorial Garden, I worried children might play on it, and it would be disrespectful. When I mentioned my worries to one of our older members, she laughed and said, “I like the idea of children playing on it. One day I will be buried out there, and knowing there are children running and laughing all around me brings me joy.”
Sure enough, during the first Easter Egg Hunt after the Memorial Garden was built, I looked up and saw a child sitting on the wall laughing and counting eggs, her feet dangling off the edge.
And now every time I stand in our Memorial Garden, even when I am very sad, I remember the angel from Matthew’s Easter story, the one who sat on the stone with his feet dangling off the edge. He still speaks the same words, “Do not be afraid.”
Grayce, if you are ever sad or afraid, I hope you will remember that angel as well, and know that the promises of Easter are for you too. And if it helps, go sit on the wall in the garden, let your feet dangle off the edge, and tell God exactly how you feel. I promise you God will hear you, and God cares. I believe this, because I believe that Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! That’s why Easter is my favorite season.