31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
April 9, 2023 Easter
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
It was an exciting day. It was a nerve-wracking day. They had been planning this day for months. Today was the day! The day to get on the plane and see their friends, friends they had not seen in three years.
They hoped the visit would go well. They hoped the flight would go well. They were excited. They were nervous. They were more than nervous as they drove to the airport and looked for the airport parking lot. They had made a parking reservation weeks in advance. Would the company have the reservation? Would the shuttle get them to the airport in time? And then when they got to the check-in counter, would their bags be too heavy? Too big? And going through security, oh my goodness, security! Leave your shoes on? Take your shoes off? Electronics left in? electronics taken out? Would the flight be on time? The weather okay?
As they drove to the airport, they got more and more nervous. They hadn’t planned enough. Things were going to go wrong. The worries went around and around in their head.
And then! The signs for the airport parking lot were large and clear. There was an attendant to guide them to a parking spot, and other travelers who had parked a few spots over helped them get their suitcases out of the car. The shuttle bus driver was prompt and friendly and got them to the airport in a safe and timely manner. The agent behind the ticket counter greeted them with a warm smile and reassured them that their bags were just right; the flight was on time; and the weather was clear all the way to their destination. And security, ok well the security staff were serious and the security process was a little complicated and they almost left behind one of their items but the person behind them in the security line called out to them.
In a few hours when they arrived at their destination and were greeted enthusiastically by their friends, they reflected back upon the trip. It had not gone completely according to their plan; however in some ways, God’s plan had been better.
The boy was so excited about the Easter egg hunt that he fairly vibrated with excitement. Before him, tons and tons of plastic eggs in all the colors of the rainbow were spread all across the field. To his six year old eyes, it looked like millions and he wanted them all.
He had insisted on bringing the largest basket his family had – even though he could barely walk with it and it likely could have held three Easter hams – maybe four! The boy planned to fill the whole basket to overflowing – and even better, he had his eyes set on getting the special prize egg, the special prize egg that would win him the humongous bunny squishamallow. This was his year! He was six years old! He would get it all!
And things started off well. Despite the overly large basket bumping against his leg, when it was time, the boy darted forth and starting scooping plastic eggs off the ground. And that’s when he saw it, the special prize egg. It was quite a ways away so he ran, running as fast as he could, making a beeline for that special prize egg, his eyes focused on nothing else.
Which is why he completely missed the dip in the ground, which is why off balance already from the super large basket, he tripped and fell, ripping a hole in the knee of his pants, bruising and scraping his hands, and worst of all, his eggs tumbled out of his basket all over the lawn to be scooped up by other children.
It was a disaster. This was not how the boy hoped and expected things to go. If he hadn’t been a big six years old, he would have wailed and cried in frustration, but instead, because he was six years old, he just sniffled to himself – because his knee hurt, his hands hurt, and his heart hurt – there would be no special prize egg and bunny stuffy for him. There would be no eggs and candy for him at all.
And then the strangest thing happened. A boy about his age stopped beside him to ask how he was and to help him brush off his pants and his hands. And then a few other kids began collecting the plastic eggs around him but instead of putting the eggs in their own baskets, they gathered the eggs into his basket. And one of the girls shared how this had happened to her last year and how she understood how sad and frustrating it was.
And these kids, these kids that the boy had never met before, helped him get up and walked with him back to the starting line where the child who had found the special prize egg, invited them all to give the bunny a hug.
Years later, the boy would look back on this day and he would picture how he had expected the Easter egg hunt to go and instead of being disappointed or sad, he would remember the kindness of the other children; he would remember the sweetness of the candy they helped him collect; he would remember that this was how he met his best friend. The boy had had a plan. God’s plan had been better.
The women got up early that day to go to the tomb. They got up as early as they could without breaking the rules about honoring the Sabbath, the holy day dedicated to God and rest. Their friend Jesus was dead. They had had hopes, hopes that he would be the one to save them from the domineering and cruel Roman Empire, hopes that he would free them from the religious rules that felt like they disconnected people from God instead of connecting them to God.
Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome got up early that day, and as they walked to the tomb, they were sad; they felt hopeless; they were worried. What would happen to Jesus’ followers now? What was next? Were their lives in danger too? Would this community that had been their family for the last three years simply scatter?
Their hearts and minds were filled with big worries but for the moment, they spoke about the present worry – how would they get into the tomb to anoint their friend and teacher? Who would roll the stone away so that they could prepare his body, as it should have been prepared a few days ago when he was first laid in the tomb?
They walked and they worried. They walked and they cried. They walked and they thought about how all of their plans, all of their expectations, all of their dreams had come to nothing. It was all over. There was no hope. There was no path forward.
However, when the women arrived at the tomb and looked up from their expectations and worries, when the women arrived at the tomb and opened their eyes to what was happening, they discovered something astounding. The stone, the very large stone, had already been rolled away, and even more astonishing than that, there was a man dressed in white inside the tomb.
To say that they were alarmed would be an understatement! And then the man said something that Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome could never have expected in a million years. “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He’s been raised up; he’s here no longer. You can see for yourselves that the place is empty. Now—on your way. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You’ll see him there, exactly as he said.” (Mark 16:6-7, The Message)
He wasn’t there? Jesus wasn’t dead? He had been raised? Resurrected? Been given new life?
And did that mean them, too? Had they also been given new life? New hope? A new beginning?
We go through life making plans, expecting life to go a certain way, our way. On Easter Sunday, because of the gift of God’s love, because of the miracle of Christ’s resurrection, we discover that even when things don’t go according to our plan, even when we don’t know what is coming next, we don’t need to be alarmed; we don’t need to be afraid, because God’s plans are always better. God’s plan is always better!
On Easter and every day, we celebrate the amazing possibilities, the amazing peace, the amazing joy that come into our lives because God loves us and because Jesus lives!