And so Sunday dawns, hope and new life dawns and the disciples can lift their heads up and look to the future. But I wonder how many of them were still dwelling in Holy Saturday, I wonder how many of us are still choosing to dwell in Saturday. You see the thing is, and this is coming from a very honest place, when we are grieving it’s sometimes too easy to stay living as if it were Holy Saturday. When someone has died we are entirely justified to feel hurt and abandoned for as long as we need to, and there will be a seed of that that will stay with us forever; but we cannot live in Saturday forever. The dark nights of our souls must end and the fresh hope of Sunday has to be allowed to dawn.
Easter Sunday teaches us a couple of things about grief that I want to pick up on today and the first of these is that we must take hold of the hope that this day offers us. Hope is here, the world has continued to turn and there is promise of a future; well in our grief we need to be able to lift our head up, recognise that and choose to take hold of it. Taking hold of hope might mean that we have to let other things go, things we’ve been holding on closely to, things that feel too important to let go of but things nonetheless that may be holding us back from experiencing hope in all its fullness. In John 20: 17 Jesus tells Mary “Do not hold on to me.”. Mary was grief stricken and trying to hold on to what she could of Jesus, but he told her that she couldn’t because they both needed to move on to what was next. You can’t hold on to someone forever, you don’t forget and leave them in the past but reality goes on, their death cannot become the death of you. Although our world without them may feel dark, cold and lonely, love and hope still exist in that world and we need to have the courage to find that love and hope again.
But hope doesn’t fix everything, it still hurts! Despite the resurrection Jesus still had scars , but they were scars and not open wounds. We have scars. We remember the pain and sometimes it is unbearable again, but it lessens with time. In John 20: 19 Jesus came to the gathered disciples and said “Peace be with you.”. He was speaking words of peace to them but he still bore the scars of the crucifixion. Peace and hope don’t erase the pain but they heal the wound. Scars remain as markers that tell us the story of the past but the pain is also in the past. But without the hope that Sunday offers us we can forget that they are scars and not wounds. When someone is suffering from scurvy one of the symptoms is that their scar tissue will break down and old wounds will open up and bleed again. Just as we need to maintain our levels of vitamin C to avoid scurvy, we also need to maintain our hope so that our scars stay as scars. The pain of losing someone marks us and stays with us but we can heal and learn to live and love again; their death doesn’t have to be the death of us.
So this Easter Sunday as we celebrate the unimaginable power of the resurrection, as we celebrate that death could not hold Jesus and we live in the hope of eternal life yet to come, I wonder how much hope you are really living with. I wonder if you are still stuck living in Saturday, are you lost in the darkness of grief and unable to see that Easter Sunday has dawned and you’re allowed to live once more? Maybe you need to drop certain things that you’ve been holding on to for too long now, not dropping your dear departed all together, but freeing up your hands to take hold of hope again. Perhaps you need to allow yourself to admit that someone’s death has left you with scars, you will never fully forget the pain but the wounds will heal. Holy week teaches us that life is bigger than death, that we live in memory of them, that we can let other people meet our needs and that it’s ok not have the answers; all of these lessons can be expressed not in the old chestnut “Life goes on” but rather in the title of today’s blog, their death doesn’t have to be the death of you. Jesus’ death gave us new life, because of his death we can live in hope; don’t allow someone else’s death to mean that you forget all that Jesus came to show you. It hurts, it will always hurt, but Jesus came to bind up the broken hearted and comfort those who mourn. This Easter Sunday let Jesus do what he came to do.