“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever has faith in me shall live, even though he dies; and no one who lives and has faith in me shall never die,” (John 11:26-26). These words of Jesus, for His followers are no doubt etched in our memory banks — and we cling to them as they promise something we all want – life here, and life eternal.
That said – does Easter mean more than of the stone rolling back and our Lord stepping from death? Does it mean more than once we die here, we shall be raised, as He was raised. What is the deepest meaning of Easter not just at the moment of our death, but in day-to-day living?
The late Episcopal priest Philips Brooks wrote, “The great Easter truth is not that we are to live newly after death, but that we are to be new here and now by the power of the resurrection.”
Resurrected Life – Easter Life should breathe joy into each moment of living. Something worth embracing perhaps now more than any recent moment in history. Our world is a troublesome and vexing place right now.
Some thought last year’s elections would put everything right. Others believed that once COVID and its exhausting impacts began to subside, that lives would feel as they once did. But here we are – with staggering inflation, rising crime rates, and the continued malaise of political division – coupled with the specter of war in regions of the world that had thought they had a firm grip on democracy and freedom. We thought we were “finished” with Russian madmen at the helm – clearly, we are not. I could go on, but you get the point. As a Church member recently remarked to me, “I just feel so hopeless.”
I get it. And while I do not make light of any of our current circumstances, I think Easter can speak, if not transform to some degree, our helpless feelings. The truth is much about which we fret is first (as the author of Ecclesiastes would write) “nothing new,” and second – so much is really, finally beyond our control.
We may “think” we can control our world, but the only tools we have are angst, fear, helplessness – worry.
I am not suggesting we not worry about high prices, rising crime, the specter of pandemics or the threat of ruthless dictatorial thugs. We can (and should) pray about those things. We can (and should) speak with or write to those who do wield influence in those realms. But, it is worth realizing that every time one welcomes worry into daily life, it is a useless enterprise that diminishes the power of Easter living.
Corrie Ten Boom, the Dutch evangelist who survived the horrors of Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, reflected toward the end of her life, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrows; it empties today of strength.”Jesus tried to tell his followers that some two millennium ago, preaching, “Do not worry… each day has enough trouble of its own.” Let the people say “Amen!”
When we worry about things beyond our control (and lots of things that are within our control) we are actually playing God. As C.S. Lewis counseled, “Anxiety is not only a pain which we must ask God to assuage but also a weakness we must ask him to pardon – for he’s told us to take no care for the morrow.”
So pray, yes; do what you can, certainly – but let not worry rob you of life
Easter reminds us that God has the last word. When the horrible crucifixion was over, the closest circle of Jesus’s friends thought the end had really come. In their grief and mourning they began to slip away – some went back to fishing, others circled in fear thinking they were next, still others went to anoint a dead body. And yet they had forgotten what Jesus had told time and time again – the end of the story is not written by human hands, but by Divine Ones.
“Christ,” wrote the ancient Church Father Clement of Alexandria, “has turned all our sunsets into dawns.” Oh to be sure, sometimes the dawns the Almighty offers are not the ones we would paint for ourselves, but who knows better? He or me? The answer to that one is as plain as the nose on my face.
So when those things about which we fret are offered to the Easter Hope, you can be secure in the knowledge that God will make everything turn out all right.
Few knew that more poignantly and personally in the last century, than Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who slipped from this life into the next the day after Christmas 2021. He wrote, “Easter means hope prevails over despair. Jesus reigns as Lord of Lords and King of Kings… Easter says to us that despite everything to the contrary, his will for us will prevail, love will prevail over hate, justice over injustice and oppression, peace over exploitation and bitterness.”
To take that a step further – Easter means a wayward child does not mean a child lost forever; a dying marriage does not have to end in divorce; a divorce does not have to mean the end of relationships; a grievous sin does not exhaust the authentic mercy of others or the grace of God; cancer does not have to end in death, and Easter does – in fact mean, that death does not mean the end of life. All darkness can be turned to dawn when placed within the realm of Easter’s promises.
So, I go back to where I began – what is the deepest meaning of Easter? It is – that God, and God alone, writes the final chapter of every story – and in His beloved embrace, hope – in each and every circumstance, springs eternal. Blessed Easter to you.