It is 7:30 a.m. on Easter Day. I am in a hotel in The Dalles, Oregon. Typically, we’d be preparing for church services on this Easter morning, but Tim had prom last night. Our family celebrated our Easter with family last weekend when we were all together for Shelby’s wedding.
Shelby and Cris are flying back from Cabo today. They have had a wonderful week, sending me pictures from the Sea of Cortez, swapping a wonderful story with her sisters that I hope to tell you about soon. Mexico is one of the countries I have never been to. Can you believe that? Even my sister who never travels has been to Mexico.
I spoke at church during one of our Lenten Suppers, and oddly enough I spoke about what Resurrection means to me. I grew up in the South where ghost stories abound. The notion of bodies rising up out of the graves was something I was taught from an early age. There were all kinds of debates when I was growing up about whether one’s soul went directly to be with the Lord or whether one’s soul hung out in the grave waiting for Resurrection Day. Both notions creeped me out, frankly.
Oddly enough, though, going to graveyards in the middle of the night was not an unusual occurrence with the group of friends I ran around with. Christians in the South feed off of fear. Fear kept us walking the straight and narrow. And when that didn’t work, fear drove us to our knees at the altar. My childhood post 1966 was spent bouncing between fear and repentance. I was baptized twice, once after my father died, the other time before I left for college. Now here I am decades later and I’m still not quite certain I have gotten this faith thing right at all.
But if faith is about hope – and not about retribution and judgement and condemnation and keeping women & minorities subjugated – then I feel a little more confident in my faith than I did when I was 17. That’s not to say at all that I have gotten this faith thing down. I have a ton more questions about God and faith, and who were are in light of all that, than just whether our souls hang out in the graves or rise to be with Jesus the moment we die.
Resurrection, for me, is no longer about a rising up from the grave. Resurrection for me is about something the former Rev. Peter Marshall mentioned in an Easter Prayer of his. Somewhere in my stacks of books is the sermons of Peter Marshall, and somewhere in that book is this prayer:
We thank Thee for the beauty of this day, for the glorious message that all nature proclaims:
The Easter lilies with their waxen throats eloquently singing the good news;
The birds, so early this morning, impatient to begin their song;
Every flowering tree, shrub, and flaming bush, a living proclamation from Thee!
Open our hearts that we may hear it too!
Lead us, we pray Thee, to the grave that is empty, into the garden of the Resurrection where we may meet our risen Lord. May we never again live as if Thou were dead! In Thy presence restore our faith, our hope, our joy. Grant to our spirits refreshment, rest, and peace. Maintain within our hearts an unruffled calm, an unbroken serenity that no storms of life shall ever be able to take from us. From this moment on, O living Christ, we ask Thee to go with us wherever we go; be our Companion in all that we do. And for this greatest of all gifts, we offer Thee our sacrifices of thanksgiving. Amen.
Be our Companion in all that we do.
May we never again live as if Thou were dead.
May I never again live as if you were dead, Jesus.
May I never know the despair of being without Your Presence.
It is this prayer of a pastor long dead, and long ago Resurrected, that speaks to me this Easter.
These past two years have been the most disheartening and divisive years of my adulthood. I have had a falling away of friends and loved ones I have known for decades. I witnessed a vitriol I would never have believed possible rise up. I have witnessed a resurrection of the racist hatred of the Civil Right era. I have seen more bigotry in the past two years than in all the decades of my life prior combined. All of this reminding me that love isn’t the only thing that can be resurrected. Hatred can be resurrected, too. Not only can it be resurrected, it most certainly has been resurrected. Keep in mind that if the body of a Peter Marshall has the power to rise up from the grave, so does the body of Hitler.
We can be Resurrected to Life.
Or we can be Resurrected to Death.
The choice is up to us.
Easter isn’t just about one Sunday in April. It’s about the choices we make every single day. Little choices and big ones. Do we live as if Christ is alive and dwells among us? Or do we ignore the Risen Lord as we go about our daily pursuits and our selfish ambitions?
The promise of Easter isn’t just about Resurrection. It’s about the ever-abiding companionship. Christ with us, always. No matter what. Christ in us, always. No matter what.
As the Scriptures assure us:
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[ neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
My Easter prayer for us all is the one Rev. Marshall first uttered: May our lives be a daily testimony to the companionship of our Creator God, whose love for us all is endless. No matter what.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Where’s Your Jesus Now? (Zondervan).