My earliest memories of Easter include new church dresses with hats and lots of yellow ribbons, intense searches for plastic eggs with the rare $2 bill stuffed inside, marshmallow peeps (which I never liked) and loads of Cadbury chocolate, complete with the resulting stomach-ache. The day came and went with a little bit of anticipation, but nominal impact on my day-to-day life.
As I grew up, the cognitive recognition that Easter celebrated something important, something critical, something that all of reality hinges upon, was not lost on me. However, the disconnect between head and heart can sometimes keep the significance of an event at a distance. I would reflect on its importance for a moment, perhaps at a Sunday service, but its formative impact quickly lost its potential on me as I turned my attention to the week and people and tasks ahead.
Until last year.
Last year was one of the most painful and stressful of my thirty-something years. For the first time in my life, my hope and zeal for living took a significant blow, as I experienced some considerable losses that left me emotionally and physically drained. A good friend of mine died too young. My fairy-tale relationship wasn’t going to end with happily-ever-after. People I cared deeply about were going through the most significant challenges of their lives. As deadlines and pressures and grief took their toll on me, anxiety and isolation became my close companions. The entire year seemed to be a reminder that life is messy and broken and ultimately uncontrollable.
But it’s not without hope.
I sat at a sunrise service in the plains of West Texas on Easter Sunday last year, shivering on a cold, windy, dark morning as a small group of dedicated Baptists gathered together to sing hymns way off-key, drink horrible coffee, and ponder the Resurrection. I stared at the cross, with my dad on my left and mom on my right, quietly and tearfully joining my voice with those of my fellow companions… “up from the grave He arose….” And as I pondered this truth, my hope arose, too.
Life. After. Death. This is the central theme of the Christian story. When the disciples of Christ lost their Lord to a brutal and horrific death, their world turned upside-down. Their expectations dashed. Their fear insurmountable. Their hope - completely devastated. In the waiting period between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, they were stuck in the darkness, destruction, and mess of life gone awry. As are we, as we live in the midst of a broken and fallen and confused world. It’s easy to lose hope when you lose things and people you hold dear. Thankfully, the story doesn’t end with Good Friday. And our stories don’t end with our current losses. There is redemption. There is renewal. And there is Resurrection. For all of reality centers upon this one thing: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of that central event…Christians have the potential for incredible hope.
Joining with the voices of the church throughout the ages, we proclaim that He is Risen.
He is Risen Indeed.