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Last Easter, I missed the Resurrection

April 3, 2012

I know I probably should not admit this, but sometimes – only now and then, really — my mind drifts off to some distant place during the worship service. Shocking, right?

Of course, whenever I fill a pulpit, I can see the yawners, the distracted Moms, and those of you who are doodling or staring off into space, thinking about that pot roast at home. And I think to myself: Are you even getting this stuff at all?

Well, here’s the ugly truth: Sometimes, when I am out there in the pew with you, I am doing the same thing — even on Easter Sunday (Gasp!)

That’s right, last Easter, after taking part in the joyous opening processional to set the Lord’s table, finding my place in the congregation next to my family and settling in for the celebration of Jesus’ emergence from the tomb, this thought flashed across my mind:  If next Easter comes, and I am still sitting out here in this pew instead of pastoring a church somewhere, I am going to be very unhappy.

In fact, the more I imagined an entire year passing and not working through preparations for Holy Week at my own church, the more distracted I became.

In fact, I was so distracted that I flat out missed the Resurrection.

So here we are, Easter again — a little over a year since I was approved to receive a call and the commemoration of the day I reminded God that I was ready to serve. Once again, I am biting my lip listening to my pastor friends complain about their exhaustion during Holy Week.  Just one service after another!  (If you really mean it, give me a call. I will be more than happy to take your place. Like Nixon in 1968, I’m tanned, rested and ready.)

Of course, I am not exactly proud to say that last Easter Sunday when I should have been celebrating the greatest gift the world has ever received, I was obsessing over my future. But it is what it is.

After all, God called me to pastor a church, and I faithfully answered, raising my hand one summer at Mo Ranch, singing “Here I Am Lord.” My wife and I prayed together, and we fully embraced the uncertainty of the future then. That meant I had to find a way to go to seminary and hold my job. It happened. I had to find a way get through the ordination process. It happened. In the midst of it, Kerry lost her job, and I almost decided to put it all on hold – but then she reminded me to “have a little faith that we’re on the path we’re supposed to be on.”  And so I did.

We made it through – then came the waiting. And so here we are.

Something else happened this last year, as well. My best friend’s cancer got worse. I sometimes worried that if I was called someplace far away from here, I would not be available when he needed me. But when Andre continued to get sicker, I was here. And we had time to talk – to talk about the things that are really important when there is full awareness of the finiteness of this life.

I was able to be at the hospital on that day in December and tell him in the ER what he meant to me. I was able to stand with his family and pray at his beside, one last time. And I was able to fulfill his request and preach his funeral this last January. This was the Resurrection Day I missed last Easter, because that day, the day of the funeral, the full meaning of what Christ had done was on display, through the life and passing of Andre and his new life with Christ.

This year, the DCE at our church asked my family to raise the caterpillars into butterflies that we will release during a short outdoor service on Easter Sunday. Some days, this last week, I would stand next to their cages in the kitchen window, staring at those cocoons, which appeared so discolored,  lifeless and dead, and it was hard for me to believe that butterflies could ever emerge from them. Actually, I thought they were goners. But one day, it started happening, beautiful black and orange colors, flapping around. Death to new life.

The closer I get to Easter this year, I have begun to realize that I am not unhappy, after all. Quite the contrary. I guess ministry happens when God needs it, regardless of ordination, and a pastorate will come when the time is right. I just really want it – need it – to be soon. Of course, my personal distractions are miniscule compared to the kind of problems so many people are going through: struggling to keep food on the table, poverty, racism, oppression, mental illness, the pain and suffering of addiction, divisions between family members. Easter reminds us that Jesus stands with us through our little difficulties as well as the blows that knock us on our backside. There is ever reason to hope.  You know, even though I missed the Resurrection, it still came. And it keeps coming. You don’t want to miss it, though. Trust me.  This is powerful stuff, something that commands our full attention.

 “When it was evening…Jesus came and stood among them.” (John 20:19)

And what a coming it was! Out of the realm of death’s dominion, which overpowers all human beings- out of the grave! This is how the one who came that day and stood in the middle of his disciples climbed onto the throne befitting him in the middle of all of world history. At that time Jesus wished, brought, and created peace and a good day for all people of all nations and times, for the whole visible and invisible world. Into the middle of the whole of humankind- now shouting to high heaven, now gloomy unto death- the crucified and resurrected Jesus came that day with power and might as the Lord of all. Into the middle of all the illnesses and natural catastrophes; all the wars and revolutions; the peace treaties and the violations of peace; into all the progress; stagnation, and regress, into all the deserved and undeserved human misery, it happened in his time that he revealed himself as who he was, is, and will be: “Peace be with you” (John 20:21). What happened on that day became, was, and remained the center around which everything else moves. For everything lasts its time, but the love of God- which was at work and was expressed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead- lasts forever. Because this event took place, there is no reason to despair, and even when we read the newspaper with all its confusing and frightening news, there is ever reason to hope.” (Insights: Karl Barth’s Reflections on the Life of Faith, 30)

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