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Easter Sunday — April 17, 2022

Teri McDowell Ott’s lectionary reflections are sent to the Outlook’s email list every Monday.

Resurrection of the Lord
Luke 24:1-12

In her book, The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations, Toni Morrison ponders how some texts, read attentively, yield wonder again and again. While the text is flat and unchanging on the page, the reader deciphers, as Morrison writes, “the invisible ink [that] lies under, between, outside the lines, hidden until the right reader discovers it.” This participation is not strictly an interpretation, Morrison adds, but how reader and writer together bring a text to life — like a singer brings a song’s lyrics and score to life through her performance.

This Easter Sunday, the lectionary passage from Luke is a text Christians have read time and time again. The words on the page are just that: words. But Luke, guided by the Holy Spirit, has written this text in his own, unique, invisible ink. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have each written the same story in their own unique way, with different plotting, unique characteristics, and characters particular to each version.

The final scene of Luke’s gospel propels the reader to anticipate the rest of the story in the book of Acts, where Jesus’ tomb serves as the center of the action. The women come to the tomb, find it empty, hear from two “dazzling” men that they should not be looking for the living among the dead, and go to share the good news that Jesus has risen. Peter, upon receiving this word, has to go see for himself. He runs to the tomb, is amazed to find it empty, and returns home.

The shape of this scene is the shape of the entire gospel narrative. The plot leads us to death, the tomb a central gathering place and an expected ending. But that’s where the story turns. In a third-act twist, death is not the end. Death is not where readers are left. Instead, Luke moves from death back to life. The text surprises us. The story is resurrected, as are the characters, as are the readers of the invisible ink. Readers open to the invitation under, between, and outside these lines, are propelled to participate in the hope of resurrection.

And what do we, as readers, bring to the text this year? What are we searching for in these all-too-familiar words? Are there any surprises left? Our story, too, has been plotted to death — the tomb an expected gathering place. Pandemic survivors approach death this Easter, exhausted and despairing. Erratic weather, tornadoes and devastating natural disasters have dropped us at the lip of the tomb, overly aware of our fragility and vulnerability. The warring violence, insanity of power-hungry leaders and maddening murder of innocents has us wailing and lamenting.

Are we so hopeless?

Will death win this Easter?

Or will we discover the invisible ink? Will we hear and accept the Holy Spirit’s invitation embedded in this text of a Gospel author? An invitation that sounds like a song, with a score that takes a turn and then rises high, a song with lyrics that proclaim, “Jesus Christ is risen today!” Will we bring this text to life? Will we participate and perform this hope for all the world to hear?

Alleluia, alleluia! Give thanks to the risen Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia! Give praise to his name.

Questions for reflection:

    1. What do you, as a reader, bring to the Easter text this year?
    2. How does the Luke’s text speak to you anew this year? What wonder does this text yield for you today?
    3. What song of hope do you feel called to perform?

To print, use this .pdf version: LITL_April17

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