Living in Light of Easter

Scripture Reading: John 20:11-18

 

Were you watching last night when Wisconsin upset undefeated Kentucky to advance to the finals on Monday night against Duke? It was an amazing game and when the horn sounded to end the game, a joyous celebration commenced. There was fanfare on the part of Wisconsin fans, and fan grief  for Kentucky faithful. Even if you knew nothing about basketball, you would have known that something really big had just taken place.

 

Somewhere along the way I was programmed to believe something similar should happen on Easter. This is a day of celebration and a great day for celebrating He is alive! Christians gather just like we are for sunrise services, eggs will be hunted, choirs will sing well rehearsed anthems, and preachers will be at their best.  Call it our own Christian fanfare. 

 

But for just a few moments, I’d like to take a step back from the pomp and circumstance and look closely at someone who experienced the first Easter  firsthand. I would like to see how she responded, thinking that my own response could and should be guided by hers.

 

There was a lot happening on that first Easter morning, especially for Mary Magdalene.  She arrived early and saw that the stone sealing Jesus’ burial place was moved.  She did what came natural–she ran to find Peter and John, pillars among the disciples–and told them what she had seen.

• They returned to the tomb together, Peter and John racing each other to see for themselves.  They found the grave empty and left to find the others and tell them.
• When she was alone again, Mary decided to stick her head inside and see for herself what Peter and John had seen. She saw two angels and they spoke to her, comforting her.
• She turned around to leave, and saw a man standing nearby and assumed he was the gardener. He asked why she was crying and she quickly explained.  There is no hint of recognition of Jesus on her part at this point.
• Then he calls her by name; no simple gardener would have known that. She may have still not fully recognized his face, but she would have known that voice anywhere.
• He gave her some clear and simple instructions and she obeyed immediately. 

 

Mary had an ordinary conversation on the most extraordinary day in human history, or the history of the universe for that matter. 

 

Easter is not intended to be a once-a-year celebration. It is a hope that 

permeates the most common and ordinary experiences and moments of life.

 

About the time I start losing my internal debate as to whether or not there’s rhyme or reason to my current demands and immediate struggles, I’m rescued by a visit from grandchildren. Such was the case when our two-year-old Hannah B spent the evening with us. My assignment upon arriving home from a business trip was to distract Hannah, thereby allowing my wife to complete an embroidery project with a friend. Hannah and I took to the great outdoors hand-in-hand, and I watched with fascination as she reached down to examine every fallen leaf, place it in my hands, wait for me to ‘ooh and aah,’ then retrieve and gently return it to its previous spot on the grass. Hannah knows how to enjoy the moment, undisturbed by the past and unencumbered by anything future. In short order, my precious companion reminded me of the weightiest theology I’ve ever learned: “All moments are key moments, and life itself is grace” (Buechner). The clearest signal of transcendence is that this moment, in and of itself, matters enormously. Eternity begins right now. 

 

I am praying differently these days, not so much to know God’s will any longer but, instead, simply to recognize him in the commonplace. This moment perches precariously on a knife edge, animation suspended between memory and mystery. Lean too far behind and tumble into remorse, regret, reprise, repeat. Stretch too intensely toward tomorrow and drift into fog, fantasy, make believe.  Either behind or ahead is dysfunction. To live this breath in healthy tension with present attention, that is the divine mandate–nothing less than relentless intersection, perpetual incarnation. Created in the image of “I am”, “we are.” We abide best in our heavenly Father when we extoll his grace that benefits this breath, and when we embrace the exhilaration of not living in the wake of what we once were. Every day matters; our daily challenge is to recognize what matters most. To be completely honest, that has changed for me over the years. I’ve often wrestled with the inclination to lose sight of the value of this instant while straining to predict the next and strategize accordingly. What happened or didn’t happen yesterday pales in significance with what I do right now; life does count, and this very moment matters enormously. Mercy is at hand in abundance when I allow myself to detect the weight of glory in the mundane and ordinary. Grace is now and grace is here; grace is always present tense.

 

We live in light of Easter at all times. His living presence transforms this ordinary moment into one of extraordinary hope, if I am living close enough to the light to see it.


(From the Easter sunrise service in Bosqueville, Texas, 2015)

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