Happy Easter! He is Risen! He is risen indeed!
What a strange Easter this has been. For me – even more strange than last year when we were a few weeks into COVID lock down. This is the first Easter since I was in about 7th grade when I have not been in a church. Let alone the first time in the last 24 years when I wasn’t leading a worship service.
This morning I watched the Easter service at the National Cathedral in Washington. I figured of all the days to get some pomp and circumstance in, today was a good one. The Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese in DC offered the message, Rev. Marianne Edgar Budde. She made a point that really landed for me and I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon.
This whole week we have been rehearsing the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. There is a rhythm to the Cross and the Empty Tomb. Suffering on the cross leads to joy of the empty tomb. You can’t really have one without the other and either mean anything significant.
If we think about it we actually rehearse this rhythm over and over in life. We are constantly practicing loss followed by resurrection. Sometimes they are big losses, even life altering loss. Sometimes they are little losses that sting for a moment and then recovery is swift. But inevitably the losses are followed by some kind of healing, learning, or new opportunity. What feels like a breakdown or bad luck or a terrible act of fate or even the consequence of our mistake can turn into a breakthrough, transformation, a new solution or something even better. When I look back over my life, I see the pattern- loss followed by recovery and resurrection. Suffering that is real followed by joy that is also real. Even though we may practice over and over suffering and loss, it doesn’t mean that it gets easier. But it does get familiar. And if you are like me, when something feels familiar, it also feels bearable, or doable or at the very least less scary.
There is a theological term for this pattern of cross and resurrection. It’s called living a cruciform life- where our lives are shaped by sacrifice followed by the almost unimaginable love of Christ. It is that love of Christ that brings the empty tomb. It is the never failing love of God that brings transformation, possibility, healing, breakthrough, as well as joy, delight, adventure, miracles and fulfillment. And living a cruciform life is recognizing the suffering seasons when they come and not playing the victim or placing blame on others. It means learning what we need to learn from this season and then looking for the resurrection or transformation that is sure to follow. We all know God does God’s most magnificent work in the darkness of a dank tomb.
Every Easter we revisit this story of the cross and resurrection. Today on this Resurrection Sunday, I stand in the shadow of the cross gazing at the empty tomb once again in complete wonder. God is so good. So very good. And even though I know that I will continue to practice a cruciform life with the pattern of suffering and resurrection over and over I know I am practicing for one great purpose. At some point at the end of this earthly life my great suffering will then be followed by my great resurrection. And I think I will be ready for it. Until then, I keep practicing knowing it never ends with just the suffering cross. There is always, always, always an empty tomb somewhere nearby. Always.
Grace and Peace,