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?

 

Good Friday

by Jane M. Gardner

In German, today is called Karfreitag or “Sorrowful Friday.” This resonates with me as a description closely tied to the events of Jesus’ last Friday on earth. It was a day of betrayal, violence, and suffering.

There was much about which to be sorrowful. So, why in English do we use “Good Friday”? The origin of the use of “Good” is not clear. Some say it came from an older English name, “God’s Friday” – used to describe Jesus’ faithful response to the mission God called him to perform.

Others link the use of “Good” with the coming dawn of Easter. It is a day that found Jesus trusting and true to God’s purposes. There would be no Easter without the events of Friday, making it a good, essential day.

Regardless of the origin, using “Good” as a descriptor for this Friday is not meant to be an attempt to avoid difficulty and sorrow. Rather, the dramatic events on the last day of Jesus’ life lead purposefully to suffering and, for the good of humanity, to resurrection hope.

Might we be able to find ourselves in this Good Friday story? Can we name our suffering? Think about the women at the foot of the cross. They came face-to-face with Jesus’ suffering and didn’t run away. They stood firm in their sorrow. Perhaps our place is with them. To follow Jesus on Good Friday means to be near the cross and witness, like the women. We follow Jesus by standing still and taking it all in. We follow Jesus by acknowledging that hurt and sorrow are part of life. We purposefully stand still and don’t rush away from the pain. Today we stand at the cross and find God in the stillness and the suffering.

We knowingly enter into Good Friday every year. It is a sacred story and a sacred time. As we choose the discomfort, grief, and sadness of this day, may it bring to mind the suffering that is around us and in us. Find the stillness of this day and through it discern your mission to stand purposefully with those who are suffering and in pain. Take it in. And let the Spirit guide you to be a faithful disciple, even in the moments that are difficult. After all, it is God’s Friday, not ours.

Choose Hope

Choose Hope
by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

We are tempted with believing despair is urgent-
Disaster prolific.
We can get lost in overwhelm.
These lenses we wear we did not choose
As they attached themselves to our heart’s eyes
Through a million messages of fear-
A constant barrage in the soul.

We can all see the images
Hear the words
Sense the unrest
Like the whole earth is tipping toward ruin.

BREATHE. That’s first.
Then know:
This is the time for taking off these fear lenses
Which blind us to Spirit movement and human goodness.

We can choose how we will see this world
And how we will respond to what we see.

As followers of the risen One,
What lens are we to wear?

The lens of a resurrection people is hope.

And what is resurrection today?
Is it an event, or many events?
Is it metaphor?
Is it basic biology- a regenerative truth trapped in our DNA-
A holy momentum we couldn’t stop if we tried
That says continuing is the natural way
That all life always, even in it’s dying, is becoming part of some other life?

Choose hope
And see the inherent goodness in the world
And find a grace not your own breathing through you
And ask in wonder- from where does this capacity for forgiveness come?
And what of this strength to keep going that lifts us up in our weariness and will not let us surrender to desolation?

Choose hope
Because it is a flame burning within you regardless just waiting for you to discover and live its heat, its light.
Because it is yearning to be noticed in the daily acts that beg for your attention- the simple kindness you receive throughout the day… and the impulse in you to give simple kindness to others.

Choose hope
Because the Spirit has not stopped stirring, moving, breathing, speaking…
Because nothing is ever really ending even when it feels like it is.

Choose hope
Because it is also the birthplace of courage to speak, to live, to act the God-dream for a better world within us.
Because it is not a flight from realities of despair but strength to enter them, to resist what they are telling us about what can’t be.

Maybe the whole earth is tipping toward shalom.
Maybe what we long for is just beyond the horizon.
Maybe seeds are taking root in us planted by our ancestors.
Maybe there is still much to flourish.

Maybe people are even better than we thought they were-
That for every oppressor there is a liberator
For every violence there are communities dedicated to healing
For every cry of war there is a movement of peace.

Maybe there are actually many more people who want to love and lift up then harm and beat down.

Maybe what seems impossible now will one day be the norm for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Choose hope-
The lens of a resurrection people,
The good news of Jesus Christ for, in, through the world today.