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Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Season of Easter

Although Easter Sunday was almost a week ago, we are still in the season of Easter. The season of Easter starts with the Resurrection of Jesus and ends with his Ascension. Then the season of Pentecost begins. Plus, the wonder of the resurrection stays with us all year, so there's never an inappropriate time to reflect on the joy of our Risen Lord.
Easter Sunday was wonderful. It's different here in that people don't "dress" for Easter. In the US, it is quite the tradition to have a new dress or outfit, to don a hat, to break out the pastel colors in lieu of the dark shades that have dominated the winter. But Easter still brings people to church. We were over 500, with about 100 kids running around and it was joyous indeed.
We sang the all time favorite Easter Hymn, "Christ the Lord has Risen Today." More wonderful words have scarcely been written. Love the final line of all stanzas: Sing, O heavens and earth reply: Alleluia! Where your victory, O grave? Alleluia! Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia! Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia! I love just belting it out and embracing the great truth embedded within the lyric.
Later in our service, we sang a more contemporary song that also gives deep expression to the wonder of all that Christ has done in our lives. It's called "Mighty to Save" and the chorus proclaims this truth: "Savior, he can move the mountains, our God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save. Forever, author of salvation, he rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave." Powerful stuff that affirms what we believe and gives expression to the deep longing we have to be assured of our salvation from our sin and that Christ really has conquered the grave with all of it's sorrow and sadness.
The focus of my message was on that last thought...that Jesus really has conquered all that leads to sorrow and sadness in our lives. I began by sharing about the scars that I carry...the one between my eyes from when I cracked my head on my headboard when I about 12. The battle wound on my chin that I received when I nicked my chin open on the gym floor diving after a volleyball when my athleticism was much more stealth than it it today. I reflected on the little scars on my knee that I got when I was in a serious car accident at age 16. Reminders of God's grace as those small cuts were the only injuries I sustained. The scar on my right hand from the carpal tunnel surgery I had 2 years ago and the granddaddy of all scars, the one on the back of my head from when I cracked my head open at age 4 while we were in the midst of the our move from Illinois to California. We were stopped at a park in Victorville, California (of all places) and my parents were making breakfast. I was jumping puddles on concrete slabs, slipped, and cracked it wide open. They didn't even know where the nearest hospital was. But with the fine hands of a plastic surgeon sewed me up and I was as good as new a few weeks later. That scar still bugs me sometimes, so many years down the road.
Scars. We all have them. They are reminders of wounds. Places we've needed healing. Jesus arose with his wounds intact. Significant because it is by Christ’s wounds that we ourselves are healed. The holes in his hands and feet, the gap in his side…they didn’t close up. He rose again with the bodily scars that the crucifixion wrought upon his body. Today we celebrate the victory over death that a wounded healer brings to our lives. And because of Christ’s wounds, we know that we can hold fast to the reality that our wounds will also heal. Remember, scars and wounds are evidence of suffering.
Wounds reveal the injuries that result from being bruised, cut and broken, whether it be physically or emotionally. In Christ’s wounds we see that the pain and suffering of his life are healed, redeemed and restored. So then, it follows that the same will be true for us. Through the pain he suffered on the cross, and the wounds he bears in the resurrection, we are assured that our suffering and our wounds will not go unhealed or unredeemed.
Of course, we would much prefer that Jesus simply eliminate our suffering and yet he didn’t do that for himself either. And through this act we understand that while Jesus may not take away our suffering, he does walk through it with us. The joy of the resurrection was preceded by the agony of Good Friday. The cross gives us a perspective on our pain. As much as it hurts, we know at the deepest level that it will be all right. There is a loving God who can sustain us, enable us to endure, and mold us into someone better than we were before. If we will trust Him to do this. The cross prepares us for the difficult times. The wounds of the risen Christ show us that our hope is not in vain. The empty tomb proves that God is greater than evil and it gives us confidence and hope during the dark times.
Scars. We all have them. Some are more visible than others. Some are emotional rather than physical but all are reminders of injuries and wounds that we’ve sustained. Jesus has them too. He rose with them as sign of his continued identification with us in our most painful places. But with his rising he redeems and restores us as well as empowers us to endure the pain of this life, knowing that the peaceful hope of eternity awaits us.
The truth of this Easter season is a truth that we can carry every day. That Christ our Lord has risen. God chose to redeem when he could’ve destroyed. God chose to restore when he could’ve condemned. God chose to allow his Son Christ to die that we might live. And Christ chose the pain that he might know ours. What a word of hope and promise that is for us. That the God of the universe loved us enough to not only redeem our sin and sorrow but that through his son Jesus Christ, chose to enter our pain and shower us with compassion as well. May that be your sustenance in the year ahead when you find the joy of Easter fading a bit.