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.

Come to the Table: Maundy Thursday

by Ron Harmon

22 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

32 They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34 And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” 35 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” 37 He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? 38 Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Mark 14:22-25, 32-38 New Revised Standard Version

Jesus took basic elements of life and infused them with prophetic meaning and purpose. A simple invitation became a pathway of hope and healing to those excluded and forgotten. A worn wooden table became a new sanctuary of acceptance and abundance for all. Bread became a symbol of remembrance and future possibility where the hungry will be fed. A simple cup conveyed a love poured generously for the sake of a world waiting to be reborn.

I come to this Passover meal never fully prepared. My journey is incomplete. I am still wandering in the wilderness, seeking greater clarity, thirsting for life giving water, and yet still unsure of my heart’s deepest desire. I remember the sacred journey while a holy unsettledness deepens my awareness of a difficult but necessary path ahead.

Is this cup too much to bear? Fountain of generous love that calls me into remembrance, disruption, suffering, and resurrection – hear my faint prayer for liberation. Break through my tired patterns of living that lull me to sleep at your time of greatest need. I desire your company and also want to flee.

Help me be fully awake and ready to respond. Grant me courage to come to the table again – to remember and to risk something new – to receive the bread and cup, embody transforming love, and share the invitation to loving community.

Questions for Reflection:

  • How do the basic elements of the table, bread, and cup evoke sacred memory and invite you into God’s unfolding future?
  • What is your heart’s deepest desire?
  • How is the Spirit inviting you to become fully awake?
  • Who do you need to invite the table?