Sunday, April 1, 2018

So We Too. . . An Easter Meditation

Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

So we too. . .

Resurrection.  Jesus.  A historical event.  An eschatological hope. 

Death's dominion clouds our vision.  It's coming.  That we know.  No exceptions.  The years pass quicker now.  Tragedy strikes too often.  Life is fragile.  But resilient. 

Death is real.  The Greeks were wrong to speak of the immortality of the soul.  We die.  All of us.  Completely.  Not just part of us.  Our souls are not spared the stark reality of death.  The world  can exist without us.  It did before we were born.  It will after we die.  The cosmos does not depend on our experience of it for its very being. 

Yet there is God, the Author and Giver of life.  And a promise.  You are dust and to dust you shall return.  But dust filled with possibility.  "Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being."

Breath on O King Eternal, Breathe on.
Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy
Breath of heaven
(Amy Grant)

Resurrection is real.  More real than death.  Resurrection is not the avoidance of death, but a shedding of death's dominion.  One breath.  Life restored.  Not resuscitation.  To be resuscitated is to return to life, yet to remain under death's dominion.  We will die, again.  Resuscitation merely delays death's dark day.

They wanted to try.  The paramedics that is.  Dad had died.  "What do I do?" Karla asked.  Call 911.  "It may not be too late."  "No that is not what Dad wanted."  DNR means that one hopes for resurrection not resuscitation.  Dad looked forward to his own Easter.  

And yet resurrection is also a reality now.  Dying before death, and rising in this life.  "Keep you in eternal life."  Having once died through our baptism into Christ, we no longer need fear that breathless day.

"You almost died."  Or maybe I did.  But I was there to hear the words.  New life now meant sober living.

Resurrection.  Awakening.  Passing through the darkness.

Heart surgery.  Breathing stopped.  Lungs empty and deflated.  The heart's persistent beat now stopped.  Hours passed by.  A robot's arms stitched away under a skilled surgeon's gentle control.  And then the restart.  And the wait.

I remember her eyes looking into mine.  Her face but a few inches away.  "You're doing just fine.  You made it through surgery."  A few years later Dad had surgery in the same hospital.  The same nurse recovered Dad.  I recognized her.  It was those eyes.  And the assurance that I lived through it.

I wonder now whose eyes will welcome me home.  I think it will be much the same.  Except there will be no breathing tube.  The Breath of God entering in.  Death destroyed.  

Aging brings with it questions.  Are your best days behind you now, or yet to come.  Yet to come.  That's the resurrection hope. 

 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

It is darkest before the dawn.  And then the grating sound of rock against rock, as the stone is rolled back.  The grave opened.  Perhaps it was opened not for Jesus sake, but for the sake of those who came that morning.  The stone would have obscured their view.  And now they saw what was not there.  Him.  Why do you look for the living among the dead?

This Easter morning I keep my vigil.  I hope and pray.  One of the prayers I offer is for my congregation.  Small.  Declining in size.  Fearful.  And struggling to find hope that their ministry will continue.  New life, new members, and a renewed sense of purpose and being are difficult to realize.

Easter services.  Might there be visitors?  That would mean much for the congregation.

Resurrection or resuscitation.  Would a few new faces represent a resurrection of the congregation, or merely a resuscitation?  New life?  Or merely prolonging and delaying an inevitable death, the consequence of a world becoming secular.

I wonder what consolation that people will find at the time of their death in the knowledge that while they were able, they played soccer well each Sunday morning.

"Breathe Oh Breathe your gentle Spirit into the heart and soul of this congregation.  Do not let our voice be silenced, or our praise fade away."

It is dark now.  The vigil continues.  I write in the place that my father died.  More importantly, the place from which he was resurrected.

One final thought.  Gladys was her name.  95 years old.  "Pastor, I have one last question.  When we die do we go immediately to heaven, or sleep until the day of resurrection at the end of time?"  "What do you hope for Gladys?"  "Pastor, I'm 95 years old.  I've lived a long time.  I'm tired.  I want to sleep awhile."

I've slept enough.  When that day comes, I hope that the sleep is short lived and that the dawn comes quickly.  In the meantime, I'm thankful for the meantime.  The Bread and the Cup.  Is it not the Body and Blood of Christ?  And as we receive it we participate in his resurrected life.  Now.  That is sufficient.  I will wait in hope, knowing that Christ is present now, though my vision is obscured.

Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen, Indeed!

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