Most of us are responsible, productive people. We head off at the start of the day to do what is expected of us. At the start of a new school year, fiscal year, or calendar year, we lay out a course and proceed accordingly, doing what is expected of us. So, it is with Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, who rise early on the first day of the week to do what is expected when someone dies. They are expected to anoint the body for burial. Only the body is not there. The tomb is unexpectedly empty. Now what?
Truth be told, more of life is filled with the unexpected than the daily occurrences we’ve come to expect. How we respond to the unexpected is what defines us. In the Easter gospel (Mark 16:1-8), we will read at the end of these six weeks of Lent, Mary, Mary, and Salome meet the unexpected with terror and amazement. They seem to be experiencing, simultaneously, the emotions, “How can this happen!” and, “Wow, would you look at that?”
The work of the North Carolina Council of Churches often swings between the poles of terror and amazement as we absorb waves of the unexpected. We strive to meet the terrible by telling the truth. No, we do not have adequate public school funding in spite of the surplus in the N.C. budget —that’s terrifying. No, the Department of Environmental Quality does not have adequate funding (there’s that surplus again) to staff the work of protecting our water and air from the toxins regularly emitted by industry—that’s terrifying.
As terrifying as truth telling can be, it creates the possibility for amazement. When the schools are adequately funded, we will be amazed. When the water is once again safe to drink, we will be amazed. And therein lies the miracle of Easter. When we’ve lost hope, God offers a way forward, reminding us that our task is to move through the unexpected as people of hope always ready to be amazed.