Happy Easter to each of you this morning. We have come together to celebrate the joy of Easter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our belief that new life indeed may break forth and give us hope and the promise of better days ahead. It has been a wonderful start to spring here in Maine, a spring that so many of us yearn for and often don’t realize until far later in the season, and we are used to that. Last week, we enjoyed several days of sunshine and warmer temps, and were able to see new life, to hear new life bursting forth all around us. Nature serves as our annual teacher that new life will indeed break through even after a long winter, even after a very long and painful year. Let us pray, O Holy One, we greet this day with hope and joy in our hearts. Bless us and inspire us this Easter morning; teach us anew that love is stronger than death, that new life is always possible if our hearts our open to the gifts of this amazing story of Jesus, our savior and teacher. In the name of the one who brought peace and hope to our world, we pray. Amen.
Years ago, when I served as a Chaplain at Maine Medical Center, I recall a family I met. Their son, age 13, had come into the ER in very tough shape; he was in fact near death. As the doctors worked on him, they shared that this young man was not expected to make it through the weekend. I’m sure you could all imagine the pain that his parents were feeling. I left for the weekend not knowing what I would find the following Monday when I returned. On Monday, the first thing I did was to check the list of patients on the floor and there I found that boy’s name, so I made my way up and as I opened the door to his room, there he was sitting up in his bed, not only alive but awake and talking with his parents. It felt like a miracle to them; it certainly felt like a miracle to me. We celebrated together this miraculous story.
I imagine that for many of us, the day of Christmas may be easier to grasp than Easter. There is nothing like the story of the birth of a new baby which can resonate with our own lived experiences. Most of us have had the privilege of feeling the joy of a new baby whether in our families or among our friends; there’s nothing like it. But Easter can be complicated and challenging to grasp for so many. Resurrection? Life after death? Only a few have come close to that experience.
“Too often, Easter, rather than the day against which we measure all our days, is an emotional and intellectual incomprensibility for most people. Not a mystery in the good sense; not profound and limitless like God; not “how could God promise– much less provide– this much.” Instead, more like a puzzle. Or simply unbelievable. How often we hear people scoff at the church, or dismiss Christian faith with the simple complaint, “People just don’t come back from the dead.” (Rev. )
As we grow older though, the experiences of life, the hard lessons we are sometimes forced to learn, help us to better grasp what resurrection could possibly mean. It might seem that Christmas is a special holiday for children, but Easter, the true meaning of Easter with all of its complexity, perhaps it takes a journey through life for us to ultimately grasp its meaning.
This past year, death has visited far, far too many within our world. In fact, each day, the news would report the number of Covid cases and then sadly, the number of those who had died that day. And the numbers kept growing, kept going up and up, and we began to feel overwhelmed by the numbers. It was hard to imagine the numbers of families who were in grief at their losses, who continue to grieve right now. And others lost family members too, not due to Covid, but they may have felt their loss buried in the overwhelming pain of this year. So many were unable to mark the passing of those they loved with the rituals that often bring us comfort and accompaniment in the wake of a loss.
And yet, we did hear stories of miracles, of those who came so near to death, who spent days and days in a coma on a ventilator, and then remarkably, miraculously seemed to come back from the dead. Their families and the medical caretakers rejoiced and we all were moved by those miracles.
We don’t need to actually experience the nearness of physical death to have a taste of ‘death’ in our own lives. Those who have been through painful treatments for cancer and other illnesses know what it means to feel they just want to give up and then, one day, they awake to the feeling of joy. Those who have faced addictions and have found themselves at the bottom of a hole, or those who suffer from depression, those who have lost jobs and can’t imagine returning to a life they once knew, the homeless, those who have become so isolated, these are all akin to death at times in our life, and yet, so many who have faced these times, hard and painful and frightening, they have found their way back to resurrection. They too have tasted the promise of hope, the promise of new life for themselves.
What is your resurrection story? When did life become so hard for you that you weren’t sure if you could keep going, when did you face such seemingly insurmountable challenges that you felt like you were dying inside? Those are not easy times to come through and yet, was there a day when new life, new hope broke through? What miracles have been present that helped you to roll back the stone and emerge to the light?