The gifts of the Master are these: freedom, life, hope, new direction, transformation, and intimacy with God. If the cross was the end of the story, we would have no hope. But the cross isn't the end. Jesus didn't escape from death; he conquered it and opened the way to heaven for all who will dare to believe. The truth of this moment, if we let it sweep over us, is stunning. It means Jesus really is who he claimed to be, we are really as lost as he said we are, and he really is the only way for us to intimately and spiritually connect with God again.
The organist was almost at the end of the anthem’s long introduction, and as the crescendo increases the cathedral began to glitter before my eyes until I felt as if every stone in the building was vibrating in anticipation of the sweeping sword of sound from the Choir.The note exploded in our midst, and at that moment I knew our creator had touched not only me but all of us, just as Harriet had touched that sculpture with a loving hand long ago, and in that touch I sensed the indestructible fidelity, the indescribable devotion and the inexhaustible energy of the creator as he shaped his creation, bringing life out of dead matter, wresting form continually from chaos. Nothing was ever lost, Harriet had said, and nothing was ever wasted because always, when the work was finally completed, every article of the created process, seen or unseen, kept or discarded, broken or mended – EVERYTHING was justified, glorified and redeemed.
To summarize, Easter Sunday is the most important Sunday. It is the Sunday of all Sundays. It is the day of the new beginning of the entire cosmos, the day of resurrection. In our worship we must be careful not to reduce our message to the Easter fact only. The Easter fact must include the message this fact proclaims: God makes all things new. It must also include the message that we have been raised with Christ. Calling God's people to die to sin and rise to the new life is central not only to Easter day but to the Easter season.
Easter is a marvelous affirmation of the genius of our design, but it is likewise the blunt acknowledgement that left to its own devices, the genius of our design will result in the destruction of our lives.
People referred to the symbolism of the empty Cross more than once on its journey. It would seem obviously to point to our faith in Jesus’ resurrection. It’s not quite so simple though. The Cross is bare, but in and of itself the empty Cross does not point directly to the Resurrection. It says only that the body of Jesus was removed from the Cross. If a crucifix is a symbol of Good Friday, then it is the image of the empty tomb that speaks more directly of Easter and resurrection. The empty Cross is a symbol of Holy Saturday. It’s an indicator of the reality of Jesus’ death, of His sharing in our mortal coil. At the same time, the empty Cross is an implicit sign of impending resurrection, and it tells us that the Cross is not only a symbol of hatred, violence and inhumanity: it says that the Cross is about something more.The empty Cross also tells us not to jump too quickly to resurrection, as if the Resurrection were a trump card that somehow absolves us from suffering. The Resurrection is not a divine ‘get-out-of-jail free’ card that immunises people from pain, suffering or death. To jump too quickly to the Resurrection runs the risk of trivialising people’s pain and seemingly mapping out a way through suffering that reduces the reality of having to live in pain and endure it at times. For people grieving, introducing the message of the Resurrection too quickly cheapens or nullifies their sense of loss. The empty Cross reminds us that we cannot avoid suffering and death. At the same time, the empty Cross tells us that, because of Jesus’ death, the meaning of pain, suffering and our own death has changed, that these are not all-crushing or definitive. The empty Cross says that the way through to resurrection must always break in from without as something new, that it cannot be taken hold of in advance of suffering or seized as a panacea to pain. In other words, the empty Cross is a sign of hope. It tells us that the new life of God surprises us, comes at a moment we cannot expect, and reminds us that experiences of pain, grief and dying are suffused with the presence of Christ, the One Who was crucified and is now risen.
It is at Easter that Jesus is most human, and like all humans, he fails and is failed. His is not an all-powerful God, it is an all-vulnerable God.
And now brothers, I will ask you a terrible question, and God knows I ask it also of myself. Is the truth beyond all truths, beyond the stars, just this: that to live without him is the real death, that to die with him the only life?
Easter blessingsAll life’s sacrifices like autumn leavesawaken our sensesand power to love and be wholeOur Mother Earth, Our Father Skyembraces our happiness and laughterPraise be to freedom and life’s seasonsPraise be to Christ’s freedom song
Easter tells us of something children can't understand, because it addresses things they don't yet have to know: the weariness of life, the pain, the profound loneliness and hovering fear of meaninglessness.
What would behoove me to instantly declare God not to be God unless He followed my script in some tediously exacting manner? I must confess that I am less likely to believe that it’s a matter of some narcissistic demand that I freely pen my own script. Rather, I think it’s fear that I’m too inadequate to follow God’s.
Easter is the miracle of transformation as seen in the change of seasons, in the maturation of mortal persons, and in the resurrection of souls.
Maybe I don’t have enough beginnings in my life because I fought against the endings that were about to birth those beginnings.
Sooner or later I will realize that the very things I most desperately need are the very things I am unable to give myself. Therefore, I will either be left despising the fact that I am doomed to live out a life that is perpetually empty, or I will realize that an empty tomb is the single thing that will eternally fill me.
Of course God does outrageous things. But in reality, what insanity would prompt me to follow a God who did anything less?
Easter says that every ending ever experienced by man is exquisitely crafted to find its own ending at the feet of a fresh beginning.
There are an incalculable number of things within me that I frantically wish to be emptied of, and despite my most earnest efforts to remove them, they remain. And it is Easter that reminds me that God empties out tombs.
Although I rail against it, death is the dark demarcation beyond which I am at the mercy of my own end. To the contrary, an empty tomb says that my end is at the mercy of God’s beginning.
I am pressed to admit that I don’t have the capacity to understand the bloodied horrors of a cross and the wild exhilaration of an empty tomb. But at the point that I think I completely understand God, I have at that very point humanized Him and in that very action I have lost Him. Therefore, I much prefer to simply marvel.
My limitations abruptly define the frighteningly negligible extent of my existence, yet my soul utterly perishes if bound by those very same limits. And does this not somehow evidence both the reality of and need for God?
Easter is the invulnerable tale of utter selflessness where at an inestimable cost God did for us what He did not need done for Himself. And that kind of ‘doing’ happens every day.
If God has the answer to every question, maybe my appreciation for God should be shaped more by the number of questions and less by the wisdom of the answers.
Reasonably speaking, we can see the cross as entirely possible. But in considering Easter, we see an empty tomb as entirely impossible. And is it possible that God had to do the impossible to finally get our attention?
Do I dare believe such an absurdly outrageous story that a man would die, lay lifeless in some tomb for three days and then somehow live again? Yet, if I dare to consider it, is that not exactly what I so desperately desire for this lifeless life of mine? And is Easter God’s tenderly outrageous way of telling me that that is exactly what I can have?
The sure path to tomorrow was plotted in a manger and paved on a cross. And although this sturdy byway is mine for the taking, I have incessantly chosen lesser paths. And maybe it is time to realize that Christmas is a promise that I can walk through the world and never get lost in the woods.
Like the rest of Holy Week, Easter is also a terrific story. It starts as tragedy: the hero broken and bloody, against all expectation dead, his followers' joyful hope in him entombed with his corpse, the rock rolled into place, sealing their despair.But the curtain doesn't fall there. The next morning at dawn they discover the rock has been rolled back. The tomb is empty, the body's gone! A missing corpse? Great stuff. A whisper of comedy. Now a touch of farce as Mary Magdalen and the guys chase frantically around looking for help, or the corpse, when suddenly, out of nowhere, up it pops—alive!Of course it's Jesus, who's done the impossible and beaten death.And they're so amazed they think he's the gardener! It's a payoff way beyond the Hollywood ending: all the flooding emotion and uplift of a tragedy followed by all the bubbling joy and optimism of a comedy.Is that possible? Not just to live happily ever after but to die—and still live happily ever after? It's the most audacious claim of Christianity, the one element that marks the brand indelibly, that trumps the claims of all other major faiths.
Crucified Love lives with us today and till the end of times as He promised.Amen.The beauty of the cross and our crucified Lord cannot be fathomed by human mind or by barely reading scriptures in bits, but by careful reading of entire scripture in the spirit which will in turn engulf one with wisdom and love.
My sin murdered Him. And out of this self-loathing shame borne of the understanding that I could perpetrate such a heinous act, I am barely able to raise my head sufficiently to ask what crazed insanity would prompt Jesus to walk out of an empty tomb for the single purpose of pursuing a decaying soul that murdered Him? And I would be wise to consider that the question itself is asked only because I have yet to touch the barest periphery of God’s love despite the fact that because of an empty tomb it stands right in front of me.
An ending is only happening because at some point it was a beginning. And if an ending is dependent upon a beginning, I would be well advised to focus on the miracle of beginnings verses the pain of endings.
May the resurrection power of Christ, awake in us a greater spiritual force and strength, so that we can passionately pursue our God-given dreams.