An Easter Message – John 20:1-18
Resurrection is about hope. It’s also about life and transformation. Resurrection is about moving from the darkness of death into the luminescence of new life; the brilliance of a new day. As we gather on this Easter morning, I encourage you to take a moment and consider the possibilities of resurrection, the presence of hope, and the progression of the seasons that have brought us to this point. Lent challenged us to “turn around” and consider deepening our relationship with God and with others. Holy week has taken us through the last supper and to the foot of the cross; a cross that represented torture, humiliation, and death.
But through the resurrection, because Christ overcame death, the symbol of the cross was transformed into something else; something powerful. What once represented death now signifies life and healing and restoration. That’s the great beauty of Easter. The cross tells us that even at our worst, humanity, can be healed; transformed. The empty tomb demonstrated that not even death could separate us from the unconditional Love of God.
I read a story this week about unconditional love. It was about a little girl named Liza. Liza was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her five-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. He hesitated for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save Liza.” As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. But then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?” You see, the boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give her all his blood.[i]
As I read this article, I thought to myself, “What a beautiful metaphor for Easter.” This boy loved his sister so much that he was willing to give his own life to save hers. It’s stories like these that remind us that there is hope for us after all.
Stories are really good way to convey hope. Consider the story of Mary at the empty tomb from the 20th Chapter of John’s Gospel. Mary comes to the tomb “while it was still dark,” probably feeling sad, bereft, and I’m sure wanting to feel a little closer to Jesus; maybe it’s easier for her to grieve there, or, maybe she no longer has any place else to go. I’m guessing, in any case, she wasn’t there because she expected the tomb to be empty; she wasn’t there because she thought she would meet the Risen Christ.[ii]
But that’s the great thing about Easter. Mary did meet the Risen Christ. She came to the tomb while it was still dark but left with the hope of a new day. And this same kind of transformation is possible for each of us as well. It often seems as if the world is “going to hell in a handbasket.” Sometimes, all we can see is the darkness. When we see a loved one struggle or a child suffer from exposure to deadly gas or a refugee turned away at the border it breaks our collective hearts. When we see fragile eco-systems disrupted and whole species of animals becoming extinct, we shake our fist and shout “why.” When we see the horrors of war and missiles flying on the nightly news or witness senseless acts of violence against innocent victims, it gives us pause to wonder, “Where is God in all this? But the good news of Easter, my friends, is that God does not operate within the humanly limits of life and death. With God, new life is possible; a new day is always dawning.
Now, as you listen to this you might accuse me of being overly Pollyannic, and you might be right. I do like my cup half-full. But that’s the perspective of hope. Hope requires faith and faith enables us to move beyond believing only what we can see to entrusting our lives to the God. Faith requires a different way of thinking. It requires a faithful perspective that invites us to see the possibility of new life in every death, to see the light shining in even the deepest darkness, and to see hope amid despair. But this is easier said than done. At the end of the day, it takes something of a leap of faith for us to really entrust our lives to the kind of hope that God awakened in the restoration of Christ’s life on that first Easter morning.
So, where do we begin? I don’t know. Perhaps we could begin by being thankful for life itself and see where that takes us? You know, Emily Dickinson once said: “To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.” That’s a powerful image, isn’t it? If we choose to live, fully live a life of faith, there is no time left of worry or greed, despair or hopelessness. And that what resurrection represents; a recognition that there are “small” resurrections all around us, every day.
I mean, think about spring. Spring is full of small resurrections. Flowers emerge from seemingly lifeless bulbs, butterflies once again push forth from their winter cocoons, and the mother bear and her cubs crawl out of their winter dens. The buds on the trees open wide to the gathering sunlight and all the possibilities of new life come to light. And these small resurrections go beyond just the natural world. When chronic pain is relieved by the hand of a skilled surgeon, the patient experiences this concept of a small resurrection. Their life is in a very real way, restored. When a homeless child finds permanent shelter or a foster child finally leaves the system behind and finds a loving home with adoptive parents, that’s a small resurrection in the life of that child. When the physically hungry are fed, when the spiritually thirsty are touched by the grace and wonder of God, when an act of kindness leads to a restored, or a new or renewed relationship, that’s a small resurrection. When we are moved by a beautiful piece of music, or feel the satisfaction of serving others, or find meaning and draw nearer to God through a spiritual practice or in worship service, or when we see the face of Christ in a stranger; these things too are small resurrections.
You see, anytime we move from the “while it was still dark” places in our lives and into the light of hope, into the new day of Christ’s resurrection, we experience a small resurrection within the core of our being. And that my friends, is the hope I have for each you on this Easter Sunday and in all your day ahead. May it be so. Amen.
[i] Dan Millman. A Little Boy Makes a Big Sacrifice from Chicken Soup for the Soul Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen eds.