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?

 

STORIES WORTH LIVING

Lenten Practice: Lectio Divina
Daily Act: We find peace and hope in returning to ancient memory and story. Consider your family and faith heritage. Spend time in gratitude for those who have gone before you. Find time to share a memory of your heritage with someone, and listen to a memory of their heritage.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“LIVING WORD, LIVE THROUGH ME.”

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

We are shaped by where we have been.

We are being called in unmooring times to return to the stories that have made us who we are. This is not to glorify the past, but to see how our lives take place in a broader context than just the complex urgencies of this moment. We are part of an expansive, unfolding story of humanity, of creation, of the cosmos, of the holy still creating in our lives and world.

Each of us is called to reclaim the ancient vocation of storyteller.
There are stories we need to remember, stories we need to hear, stories we are called to live, stories we are living now that will impact what is told beyond us.

What stories are shaping you?

In the desert times of life, I find a strange comfort in my wandering Israelite ancestors who wavered between resisting and rejoicing, hungering and hoping, for 40 years in the wilderness. The dream of milk and honey keeps us moving. Something is worth it just beyond the horizon. The way back is bondage. The way forward is freedom.

During Lent, I contemplate the meaning of the Christian story of death and resurrection as metaphor, as cycle. This pattern of renewal revealed throughout the earth, a daily occurrence. I am shaped by the perennial hope of life made new.

The story of my Community of Christ ancestors began with a God-seeking heart surrounded by creation’s beauty. There are days when I wonder if this is somehow an origin of the perpetual seeker within me, pursuing the divine presence in all things. I am not afraid to come before the holy with a question. Can you think of a more faithful way to approach the mystery?

In seventh grade, I witnessed my parents struggle over one of the biggest decisions of their lives- to leave a successful job and comfortable life and move us across the country in response to a sense of call. They would take long walks, prayerfully pondering. The radical choice they made was to leave the allure of financial stability to respond to God’s call, which felt more compelling than anything else. No one said the word “discernment” to me at the time, but this is where I learned it. As a seventh grader I could not comprehend the meaning of this move, but today I see how my own approach to decision-making always involves a preference for the holy.

Our heritage does not always positively impact us. Sometimes our ways of being are a rejection of what has occurred, a reclaiming or redefining of what feels distorted or unjust from the past. My feminism, for instance, is in response to a long, oppressive patriarchy still very much alive where I live and across the globe. The unfolding story I live is the laboring of justice in each generation to be born anew.

There is peace though, in our ancestor’s failings. In imperfection, whining, wandering, we are slowly learning about forgiveness and grace. Each faltering step embedded somewhere deep in our spiritual DNA- a lesson living in us, a hope for the future.

Tell me again of how my ancestors kept faith when it all felt impossible.

Tell me again of how the disciples walked for miles with Jesus and never knew he was beside them all along.

Tell me every story my heart yearns to hear so I can hold on to hope when it feels like all hope is lost.

What stories are shaping you? What stories are you called to tell? What stories are you called to live?