My father was a Baptist minister. Every Easter my dad loved to play on the fact that in the Resurrection story, Mary goes to visit Jesus’ tomb very early in the morning while it was still dark (you can read the full story here).
So our service was at 6am. And because I was part of the minister’s family, I was at church by 5am every single Easter.
Only about half the congregation ever showed up to our Easter services. The church was full of sleepy people. For my family it was high stress and low energy. I always felt that something was missing.
Today, it is difficult for me to feel close to God in a church. It’s kind of like trying to be impressed by an action movie for which you helped create the special effects. I have been behind the scenes at church my entire life. I know the politics; I know the sermons. I know the language, the etiquette. I know all the hymns by heart.
I think my dad chose to focus on the wrong detail of the resurrection story. When Mary got up early, she didn’t do it because she wanted to sacrifice sleep. She did it to be alone with someone she loved. She sought solitude.
And it was in that solitude that Christ spoke to her. Not behind concrete walls but under the shade of a tree. Not in a pew but in a garden. This Easter I wanted to be like Mary. I wanted to be alone.
On Easter morning I showered and got dressed with the same care and preparation that I normally would for church, except I put on my running clothes. I waited for a time when all the local church services had begun. Then I started to run.
The route to my local cemetery takes me through several residential streets. I passed three churches, but I was looking for a tomb. The cemetery is in a circular shape with an enormous cross on a huge pillar right in the middle of it. I ran towards that cross.
Everybody missed the very first Easter. They were sleeping. Or at church. Or going about their business. But Mary was right there. She knew where to look.
I love the part in the Bible that says that Mary ran home that day from the tomb. After she told the disciples, they ran back to the tomb. It says that one disciple even outran the other and arrived first.
Easter for me is not a day for sitting. It’s a day for running. I take comfort in knowing that it doesn’t matter how far or how fast I run, whether I’m in church or pushing a sprint. Every Easter morning Christ will roll that stone away to find me.