April 9, 2023
How did the world feel that first Easter morning?
I don’t mean the people of the world – most of them didn’t have any idea what was going on. The people of the Pacific islands wouldn’t hear for over 1700 years. They didn’t get the word in Japan or in China. Some people in India would hear about Jesus and his crucifixion much sooner, but they didn’t know on that first Easter morning.
They didn’t know in Africa, even as close to Jerusalem as Egypt. They didn’t know in Britain or the wide plains of Russia or in the palaces of Rome. They didn’t know in Athens. A few might just have heard the word of Jesus’ crucifixion in his home town of Nazareth – someone on a fast horse might have traveled overnight to reach there – but they wouldn’t have word of what happened Easter morning.
No, the only people who knew that Easter morning, at least as Matthew told it, were two women named Mary – it was apparently a common name in Jesus’ day – and, of course, Jesus.
But that wasn’t my question. How did the world feel that first Easter morning? This globe of ours, this Earth that God had created working with the Word of God, the Word that had taken human shape in Jesus. How did the world feel when Jesus died on Friday? How did the world feel when Jesus rose to life once more on Easter morning?
Well. That’s the story.
According to Matthew’s Gospel, the world shuddered when Jesus died, shuddered with an earthquake that shook people’s bodies and spirits, shuddered with grief and loss. And on Easter morning, the Earth felt that quickening of new life. The Earth perceived an angel descending to the rock-cut tomb where Jesus’ body lay. The Earth asked, “What is this?” as a spark of hope flared deep in its center.
The Earth shook itself again, but this time it shook to cast off the sadness and despair of the last two nights. This time it shook itself to cleanse its depths of sorrow and doubt. This time it shook to make a path for joy. This time it shook to awaken the people on its surface to something new and wondrous and holy and blessed.
Did the Earth shake all across the globe? I don’t know, to be honest. I can imagine, though, that where lava was flowing, it flowed just a little brighter, just a little faster. I can imagine that some of the mountains breathed in and became just a little taller, stretched a little bit further toward the sky. I can imagine that the ocean waves ruffled along the shores as the Earth laughed with joy.
When the angel rolled the stone away, I imagine the Earth settled beneath it just a little bit, so that the stone rolled away down a little slope that hadn’t been there before. When the women began running back to the city to tell their friends, perhaps the Earth smoothed the road so they would not trip and fall.
When Jesus met them on the road and they knelt at his feet, perhaps the Earth softened beneath them. When they ran on, after he greeted them and told them, as the angel had, to bring the good news to their friends, they didn’t trip or fall.
Beneath them, the Earth carried on with turning, with following its orbit around the sun, with moving the continents about, with cradling the oceans and raising the mountains, with turning seamounts into islands in the middle of the sea. Beneath those running women, God’s messengers and apostles that morning, the Earth smiled and laughed for joy, for its Creator and Redeemer lived, and so the Earth would be a home for life as long as time endures.
In its own way, the Earth said, “Christ is risen! Alleluia!”
by Eric Anderson
Watch the Recorded Story
In worship, I tell the story from memory. Memory sometimes give way, as today, when I substituted a completely new ending for the one I’d written.
Photo by Eric Anderson.
3 thoughts on “Story: The Earth at Easter”
A way I have never thought of the story. Precious and new and so true.
Anthropomorphizing the Earth is a delicate exercise, even allowing for the Gaia hypothesis. Matthew’s description of yet another earthquake introduced it as an actor.
Truly an inspired addition to the characters.