Yes, I realize there is still two weeks to go until Easter. That said, I would like to share an article I wrote for Christian Reflection, a quarterly published by the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University. The piece is titled “On Beyond Easter.” Start here and follow the link.
The morning my father died, I drove to the nursing home where he was in hospice care soon after sunrise, trying to make sense of what had happened. When we left the building after we had said goodbye, all we knew to do was go eat together. Grief does strange things to the mind, not the least of which is to make random connections. For me, that goes from an egg hunt in the graveyard, to a hospice bed, to a children’s book, and then a couple of lines from an old sermon I heard a long time ago. Bear with me.
When we lived in New England, my wife Ginger pastored North Community Church in Marshfield, Massachusetts, which originally broke off from the First Church of Plymouth — as in “The First Church.” That’s right: Pilgrims and all. It was a white clapboard building with big clear windows, very few decorations except for the driftwood cross that hung at the front of the sanctuary, and a tall steeple, in keeping with good Puritan tradition. Next to it was a cemetery whose tombstones bore the names of folks who lived and died before the Revolutionary War and on down.
One of my favorite traditions at our church was the Easter Egg Hunt, which followed our Easter Sunday worship service. The young people came early to hide the eggs and then the little ones came bursting out of the sanctuary after the benediction to find the eggs—among the tombstones. Since we were just south of Boston, some of those early Easters meant they found the eggs lying in the snow as well. The whole scene was a marvelous picture of the resurrection: the children running and laughing among the silent granite slates, some with names we remembered and some long forgotten. It was not uncommon to find one of the little gatherers perched on a gravestone stuffing her face with as much candy as possible before one of her parents caught on.
The juxtaposition of cold stones and vibrant children reminds me that the transition from Good Friday to Resurrection Morning is not ‘either/or’ but ‘both/and’. We proclaim the resurrection in the middle of the cemetery that is our grief-colored existence, losing loved ones even as we welcome new people into our hearts. We are the walking wounded, the disconsolate, as the old hymn calls us, the ones who need to be reminded there is a love that will not let us go. For those who have had loved ones die, Easter is less certain, even as it is more necessary. “He is not here” carries both a tone of palpable absence and enduring hope. . . .