Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Today we are in the midst of the Easter Three Days, the high point of the liturgical year beginning the evening of Maundy Thursday and continuing until the evening of Easter Sunday. These three days are a single celebration that mark the end of the season of Lent to the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection at the Easter Vigil and the later Easter Day worship celebrations. (Go here for a slightly longer explanation.)
Among the twelve texts of the Easter Vigil Readings—all of which together tell the story of God’s salvation from the Old Testament—is one from Zephaniah 3:14-20. This prophecy begins in chapter 1 with the terrible Day of the Lord with its darkness and destruction—a day of judgment—for the wrongs of the people and ends with a day of restoration and rejoicing in chapter 3 where God in victory gathers together all the people including saving especially those who have been oppressed and outcast.
Of course, you and I can recognize the reverberations of our Easter joy that we are ready to shout (even if just whispered this year from behind our masks) to God in celebration of Jesus’ resurrection!
Yet, even in a strange and more poignant way, here is also the story of both our plight and our hope in the midst of our present pandemic as we celebrate Easter 2021.
The God who Zephaniah proclaims to the world is the God who is singularly in charge, fully engaged in the life, times and conflicts of God’s creation, always at work to bring about justice, mercy, love and kindness for the all the people—yet clearly set against the wrongs of those who seek to destroy that kind of life.
Do you and I know such a God today? Yes, yes, yes! That’s the answer whether we can let the words pass through our lips or not! This is the God we know and proclaim in our faith today.
For most of us, we’ve been living a year filled with anxiety and questions. Why is this happening to us? Why would God do such a thing to us—or even allow it? Many, many of us have had much grief of many kinds: illness, death of loved ones, depression, separation from family and friends, loss of work and livelihood and the list goes on. Our yearning, of course, is to get back to a life of normal—if we can figure out again exactly what’s that’s going to be.
Here comes God bursting into the midst of our sorrow, loss, doubt, and despair with an irrepressible and unrestrained desire to bring us into joy, to discover again a better life in community for all people, and to look into each other’s faces again and see the best of ourselves in each other. Let us say to each other, “I want to hear your story; I want to come to know you as another human as I am; I want us to walk side-by-side together because God is walking with us!”
Joy comes with the morning—Easter Day—and really from today forward every day is Easter Day. Let us see others as companion humans whom we can come to respect and love because God says, according to Zephaniah, “I will save you from disaster…and I will save the lame and gather the outcast…and I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth.”
O God of the night and of the morning, O God of the deepest shadows of this pandemic and the day that is arising, let us turn to you and see how you continuingly create life and justice and mercy among us! Help us to see each other—all of us, one to another, as the unique and wonderful creations you have made each of us to be! May your joy come to us this Easter and every day! Amen.