Christ is risen!
In our tradition, we respond, “He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!” And we joyfully proclaimed it this morning!
I feel blessed to overflowing. This weekend I went to four different churches, using the different expressions of prayer, praise, and worship to lead me more deeply into Jesus’ paschal journey.
On Maundy Thursday, we sat at the table where Jesus shared his last meal with his friends, celebrated the Jewish passover, and remembered that Jesus is our passover lamb.
On Friday, we walked with Jesus to Golgotha, helping him carry the cross, and wiping his brow. We also envisioned Jesus in our lives, guiding us to help others, and giving us the strength to do so.
On Saturday we held vigil, mourning Jesus’ death, which extinguished the light of the world. Then slowly, the Christ candle flamed into life, lighting our own candles to shed light on our path. Finally, the “bright and morning star” rose, eclipsing the sun with its brightness. Jesus did not die — death died! Our bodies may cease to exist, but our souls never will!
Today, we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection at church. I wept for joy at the gift of God’s salvation! What love compelled Christ to die for me? How could God so love his servant that he was willing to sacrifice his son — especially since my rejection of God is what made the sacrifice necessary? It’s unfathomable! Thanks be to God, he fathomed it, then did it.
I actually spent most of this Easter alone. It’s the first time I didn’t have a family dinner; instead, I celebrated a Seder with only one member of my family. In the last three years, I buried my father, then my mother. I have no husband, no children, and no immediate family in my city. I didn’t have anyone to celebrate Easter with today except friends at church and God, yet it was glorious! I sang all day! I wasn’t lonely or sad.
On Thursday, I prayed that God would help me enter into Easter and journey it with him. I confessed that I hadn’t kept my intention to pray more throughout lent (deciding to add something in, instead of giving something up), and that I didn’t feel prepared for Easter. Thank God, he answered my prayer.
His presence was so sweet this morning, I knelt in our Baptist church while everyone around me stood. We don’t kneel in public, but I couldn’t keep from doing it. I also lifted my voice (and my hands) in joyful celebration; it was glorious! I continued singing all day; my heart is overflowing.
Thank God, just as Jesus never experienced sin but took it on for us, we who have never known its absence can have it removed from us. This is just a glimpse of its fulfillment in heaven, but just to glimpse it is awesome! No earthly joy can compete with the joy of God’s presence. And the presence is also a gift. So is the faith that it is possible, the will to believe, and the desire to follow God. All of it is a gift. We bring nothing but the acceptance of the gift — God leaves that up to us. And after our first faltering step God runs to us, and continues to walk with us all the way home. The way leads to our mortal death, and that is scary, but it’s way less scary when you know God is with you. As God’s presence grows stronger, so does the joy that the curtain will finally be lifted, and we will finally be with God, face to face. Mom exemplified this joy strongly when she died.
The perception that death means God is forsaking us is false. It’s not death that makes God leave us; it’s sin. And God will come quickly when we call on him. I’ve called on God many times. When I ask “Why?,” God is silent. When I cry, “Help!,” God comes quickly. Quite literally, he’s dying to come to us. Why don’t you ask him to today?