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?


Sustaining the Gaze

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

I open the curtains revealing a sliver of moon and two stars in a brightening blue sea of morning sky. It awakens delight. I linger in a moment of sustained gaze until I feel the nudge of tasks pressing in the unfolding day. There are many distractions available to me at all times. Even in the face of stunning beauty I feel an itch of impatience.

The disciplines of patience and presence need to develop in me. What would it be like to sit with a landscape until I am no longer entertained by it, to let myself belong there, to allow two stars and a barely visible sliver of light speak deep into my soul about our shared identity as universe?

What if I stayed long enough to see this golden hue creeping up behind barren wintry trees, day greeting night and a turning happening that I can see and that I can’t– the wonder of living on a planet and the miracle of those perfect conditions that daily sustain all life?

And what does the constant need to be entertained say about the state of my soul? What does it say about a lack of respect for my inherent interdependence with the very things I reduce to offerings of fleeting pleasure? We consumers try to consume the whole cosmos. It feels like a hollow endeavor.

I can waste an hour on social media busying my mind, the satisfaction of a continual array of new images for this over-stimulation addiction, but I can hardly stand 10 minutes of gazing in wonder at the colors of dawn. What great spiritual deficit is this causing in me, in my culture? Always on the surface of everything at once, will we one day forget how to be with the “one thing needful” which draws us deeper, deeper, deeper? (Luke 10:42)

Will we forget how to make space to hear the One Voice through the many multiplying voices always around us?

These desert-waiting-preparing places in the spiritual tradition are not for rigid self-denial but holy fulfillment, which comes through emptying and entering those darkened doorways of the soul to discover the living love residing within, awakening us to the living love residing in all! And this experience cannot be bought. It does not promise to entertain. It is radical amazement beyond the realm of image or word at all. It is the speechless awe that must have filled the shepherds on the night of the birth of Christ when their ordinary landscape was suddenly ablaze with divine proclamation.

I wonder if they sustained the gaze, or if they worried about the sheep, or if they eventually turned away because “humankind cannot bear very much reality” (T.S. Elliot, Four Quartets).

“God gently lures us into intimacy,” writes Norvene Vest, “and unexpectedly explodes us into mystery. Such encounters with mystery are simply too much for most of us until our capacity expands and our tolerance increases.” (Spiritual Direction: Beyond the Beginnings)

What if I dared to stay in the impatience-itch, to stay with the holy-ache from too much mystery or beauty all at once?

What if I resisted the addiction to move to the next thing, and the next,
and simply remained present long enough
to hear the voice of the Holy around me,
to feel the movement of the Holy within me?

What if Advent is about increasing our tolerance for divine mystery, expanding our capacity to bear it?

So that in it’s arrival
We are ready,
Present enough,
To receive it
To live it
To let it amaze us
And sustain the gaze…

So that we no longer observe
But belong
With the new-day stars
And sliver of moonlight
And the whole Holy landscape
Of everything coming to birth.

Spiritual Practice: Whether in holy attention, or prayer, or conversation stay present just a little longer than you normally would. Allow yourself to dwell deeply in one place for a while. What does it look like in your soul to increase your tolerance for receiving the Holy?


Lenten Practice: Centering Prayer
Daily Act: Extend grace to yourself and others throughout the day. When distracted or unaware, feel God’s assuring presence with you. When others are not their best selves, surprise them with a response of grace and love.
Weekly Prayer Phrase:


Today’s post is written by Dave Brock, Community of Christ Presiding Evangelist. Who is this God in whom we dwell? How do you approach the divine mystery?

Slash of Lightning God
By David Brock

Slash of Lightning God,
sparking flame in aged Pine.
Shaft of Sunshine God,
flaring dust motes
afloat in lonely rooms.
Beam of Harvest Moon God,
bobbing for ripples in a mountain stream.

God in laser’s precision cut
burning to heal.
Quickened Insight God
crossing exhausted mind.
God Light through all things,
giving life to all things.
God Light now shining,
enlightening our eyes.
Presence proceeding, filling
immensity of expanding space.

Some days we savor You,
slowly. The couple on a porch swing
at the farm, memorizing every change
in sunset’s color; turning away
only as last light grays, fades,
and slips horizon’s grasp.

Some nights we are the criminal,
or the coward, hiding in shadows,
holding still, holding our breath.
Freeze framed in black,
we pray to escape
the steady, unwavering probe;
the searchlight
of Your pursuing love.

Maybe tomorrow we will seek You,
like the night watchman
on a tall tower,
eyes straining,
heart longing there in the dark
for the first sign of dawn.