(“The Marys at Tomb”, mosaic in Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)
Daily Office Readings for Friday, August 3, 2018:
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’
I only have one story in my life of “unexpected resurrection” and it wasn’t nearly as good as what the women at the tomb experienced. My late dog Boomer had a thing for possums–if there were ever a dog who thought every possum ought to disappear off the face of the earth, it was him. One morning I had let him out to do his morning business, and he spied a big possum and took out after it. As he grabbed it and shook it, I was yelling at him at the top of my lungs to drop it. Finally he dropped it and I dragged Boomer into the house.
When I returned outside, although I’m well aware of how possums “play possum”, I looked at the possum and thought, “No way is this possum alive.” (I won’t go into the details of the possum’s physical appearance that made me think this.) So I picked it up by the tail and headed out to my pasture to toss it to the vultures. As I am walking along, suddenly I feel the tail twitching, and I look down to see the possum trying to grab my leg! Although I am not a screamer by nature, I think I let out a scream that could have been heard in the next county! I flung the possum into the pasture and stood there as I watched it get up and lumber away.
Over the next several weeks, I’d catch a glimpse of that possum. He was still around that summer, and as best as I could tell, was living a relatively normal possum life–whatever that is!
I wonder, though, if there wasn’t some screaming that day the women went to the tomb. After all, they went there expecting to find a dead body. They expected peace and quiet…oh, maybe a chirping bird or two, but just the usual noises one hears around dawn. Instead they find themselves in an earthquake, they found no body, and they found an angel sitting on the rolled back stone. A few steps down the road, they find a resurrected Jesus. I’m willing to bet they screamed just as hard as I did when I felt that possum tail twitching…but their screams of fear turned to screams of joy when they saw their friend Jesus.
So many times in life, we walk into a situation expecting to tend something dead–whether it’s the death of a relationship, the death of a dream, or the death of “the comfortable way things ought to be”. Most of the time, we are not disappointed. Everything has a life and a season, and we know those bits of our life come and go like the wind. How do we handle the few times, though, that we suddenly discover a twitch of life in those situations? Do we convince ourselves it’s only agonal movement, or are we able to switch our sadness and fear to joy? Do we go ahead and let go of that life, or do we lovingly tend it as best we can? Do we run to Jesus, or do we simply curl up and “play possum?”
Recently, I read Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, and this quote from her book has stuck with me for quite a while: “The only real difference between Anxiety and Excitement was my willingness to let go of Fear.”
What is an anxiety in your life that is faintly twitching with the hope of excitement, if only you can put aside the fear?
Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri as Interim Pastor at Church of the Good Shepherd and Chaplain of the Community of St. Brigid, both in Town and Country, MO.