Like many of you, I’ve known the “Easter story” since I was very young. At that time, Easter was a mixed bag for me. I’ve always loved spring and the blossoming of wildflowers. My family could tell me the names of the different flowers and was quite willing to stop and enjoy a particularly beautiful patch of them. Continuing that tradition, Cindi and I have many photos of us and/or the children in the wildflowers. Plus, Easter always brought family gatherings with lots of food. Of course, there was the traditional dying of eggs and the Easter egg hunt. And, yes, those were real eggs! Unfortunately, it also meant dressing in your finest – pressed and starched and scratchy – and trying to behave so as not to mess up your finest or embarrass your family. (I remember behaving as my biggest challenge!)
As my ability to understand the Resurrection deepened, I began to sense that there was something much more than I had previously imagined. When our youth group performed “Jesus Christ Superstar” – both at home and on the road – the whole Easter story became much more real for me. While powerful, it also raised the more adult questions and doubts that many people carry about the Resurrection.
At my father’s graveside, the reality of our mortality – my mortality – hit home. Although I had experienced many losses among family and friends, Dad’s death shook me to my core. In the midst of that terrifying time, I encountered the Resurrected Lord in a way and with a force I had never imagined. As I felt myself falling into the abyss of death, Jesus caught me and lifted me up in His most wonderful arms of love. I went from abject despair to wonder in a heartbeat! Resurrection was no longer only a story about Jesus or others. It now became my story – and my Dad’s story.
When Cindi and I visited the Holy Land, the whole of scripture became much more tangible to both of us. The story of God’s saving grace, which we had held in our hearts and heads, was suddenly grounded in the places we trod. Idea and concept took on flesh and breath. Salvation could be felt and touched. When we walked through the loss of Cindi’s parents, we did so from a place of trust. When I held my sister’s hand as she was dying, I did so from a place of confidence. When I prayed over my mother’s still body, I felt God welcoming her eternally home with open arms. When I am with one of the saints of this church at their time of death or when I celebrate their lives in worship, I do so with sure knowledge of the presence of the Risen Christ. As I was praying and discerning my Easter sermon this year, several of those beloved saints in the heavenly realm visited me. They shared a joy and comfort with me that I hope I shared well with you.
In 2017, during our mission trip to Cuba, we met “El Nuevo,” an 88-year-old man who had experienced rebirth and regeneration. As I looked at his shining face, I was reminded that the Resurrection is about both spiritual and physical rebirth. And it continues to happen right here, right now.
It all begins with Easter. The power and love of the Risen Christ is transforming each and every one of us and the world around us. It is not that Easter changes many things. Easter changes everything. In the Resurrection, God is making all things – everything and everyone - new. For the day when God demonstrated His victory over sin and destruction and death has changed – and changes – everything. Even me. Even you.
Grace and Peace,