Easter: Endings and New Beginnings

by Scott Murphy

“And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. . . The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, He has been raised from the dead.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.” Matthew 28:1-9

 Easter! The very sound of this sacred word is filled with life. The journey we have taken during the Lenten season now brings us to stand firmly in this sacred day where Easter extends its gift of life that continues to encounter us. To whatever degree we might attempt to control it, or change its trajectory, or even deny it, the gift of Easter still comes. No matter what the condition of our life may be – broken or whole, doubting or believing, hopeless or hopeful – the gift of Easter comes and offers us a new way of seeing, a new way of being, and a new way of living. Why? Because Easter is about endings and new beginnings.

Each time I encounter the Easter story shaped by the gospel writers, I am reminded that the transformative story of Jesus’ resurrection begins in the rawness of our human emotions. For most of us today, we will begin our Easter in celebration. Children will be excited to hunt for Easter eggs. Families and friends will gather for a special meal. Congregations will come together in worship where the joyous words – Christ is risen! will fill sanctuaries with hope. But for those friends and disciples of Jesus, their first Easter morning began in the numbing reality of our human frailties. No laughter or sounds of celebration; only the sounds of how empty life can feel even when breath and heartbeat are still present. When life, relationships, hopes or passions end, it can become a sobering reminder of what brings true meaning to life.

But if there is anything the Easter story offers us, it is that God refuses to remain stuck in our endings. God, who shows up Easter morning in the first breath that filled Jesus’ lungs and in the angel who says to the women, “Do not be afraid” yearns to bring us into new beginnings.

The power of the resurrection story is the awareness that God takes our endings and invites us to experience the profound blessings in new beginnings. That new creation begins with the first breath of God’s abundant love and grace that fills us with the awareness that eternal life is not just a place and time in the future; eternal life is the depth of joy and love that comes in each breath of the divine indwelling presence God shares with us. The resurrection of Jesus is God’s shout to the world that God yearns to share in a relationship of love and life with all of creation.

It is an amazing story. But even more, it is the story that continues to unfold in all of our lives.

Today is Easter! God breathes into creation – your life – and new beginnings await.

  • What is God inviting you to let go of in your life that keeps you from a deeper connection with God that is filled with eternal joy?
  • What new beginning is God offering to your life?
  • What did you encounter during the Lenten season that brings new meaning and insight this Easter?

 

Week Three: Bearing the Gift

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

“As Christ’s body, lovingly and patiently bear the weight of criticism from those who hesitate to respond to the divine vision of human worth and equality in Christ. This burden and blessing is yours for divine purposes.” -2013 Words of Counsel, Community of Christ

It is not easy.
That was never a guarantee.
This is the gift you bear–
Burden and blessing.

How do you even explain what’s happening?
Something coming alive in you–
This throbbing hope,
This ancient yearning.

What if it doesn’t make sense?
What if others don’t understand?
What if it changes you?
What if conviction for the vision
Awakening within
Turns into courage
Then action
Then reality?

It never has come easy.
Why, then, is it worth the risk?
What is it that captures the heart
Into moving in love toward
What is otherwise rejected?

Sometimes you can’t get comfortable
No matter how hard you try.
Once the God-vision
Has come alive in you
It is all you can see
Even in devastation
And division
And hatred
And fear.

Especially then
It makes itself known
A holy disruption
A new, old way
Aching to be born.

This time it is impossible
To avoid seeing what needs to be seen
To avoid doing what needs to be done
To avoid feeling what needs to be felt.
You know now that it’s not
For someone else
In some other place
At some other time.

And you feel the gift you bear,
Burden and blessing,
Growing in anticipation–
The whole creation
Groaning in anticipation.

In every unlikely
And likely place,
This gift you bear
Kicks and turns within
Forming for labor
Forming for life.

Spiritual Practice: Breathe deeply and pay attention to the deepest hope that rises up within you. When is it a blessing? When is it a burden? How are the burden and blessing for divine purposes in your life and the world?

Blessed Letting Go

First Sunday of Lent
Practice: FASTING

Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“OPEN ME TO RECEIVE MORE OF YOU.”

Fasting Blessing
Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

Blessed is the space made
From letting go
Blessed is each yearning
For what you’ve given
That reminds you of
Why you have given it

Blessed is what the space can mean
As it grows inside you
Sturdy for holding
What you never imagined
You could hold

Blessed is all that enters
The inward space
As it is being cleared
The way the Spirit
Stretches outward
Within you
And breathes deep
A joyful sigh of liberation

Blessed is the emptying
The heart-focused release
The desire to love
More than the desire to have

Blessed is the space made
That expands as you see
How the One you seek
Comes to your threshold
In a thousand faces and forms
Waiting to be received

Blessed is the emptiness
Blessed is the openness
Blessed is the letting go