Recently, I spent a week with family at the ICU of the hospital and then the funeral home. It can be a dismal experience, watching a loved one die. It can be, but it wasn’t. True, there were sobs and tears, but underneath it all was a sense of joy.
My father fought valiantly to stay in this life and not to be a burden to anyone. He required some measure of care for those things he couldn’t do for himself anymore, and suffered the frustration that goes with a failing body. In a quiet, serene manner, he breathed his last breath, left us and joined the Church Triumphant. For those followers of Christ, God prepares us for such moments. The sting of sorrow is tempered by the hope of resurrection. Grief is there, but its power is diminished by the promise of eternity. The message of Easter rings loudly in the graveyard – that this is not the end, this is not all there is, that there is a greater life, and eternal life, a weight of glory that far outweighs our sufferings of this time.
To choose between Christmas and Easter, I would choose Easter every time. We rehearse the events of Holy Week, from Palm Sunday through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, followed by the glorious victory of Resurrection Sunday. Out of the graveyard came victory – over death. The enemy is defeated. The new order has come.
While we may not see it on the stage of everyday life, behind the curtains God in Christ has conquered death, and new life, eternal life is our sin Christ Jesus. That is so exciting! That is certainly the good news, the greatest news we could ever hear. I am certain of my father’s reward. His faith in Christ was unshaken, his work for the kingdom unfailing, his love of Christ and the church unwavering. Words of comfort were spoken; hugs of console given, expressions of kindness and friendship were on display. He will be missed in this life, but there is joy in the graveyard. This life is not all there is. “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Cor. 15:17)
This year Easter takes on a more personal celebration for me. The grace, mercy, and love of God will resonate through each moment of observance. The coronation by the crowds on Palm Sunday that would later turn to shouts of “Crucify!” may stab us in the heart, because we are so much like those that lined the streets of Jerusalem that day. The solemn supper in the upper room infused the meaning into the bread and wine by forecasting the approaching suffering. The gospel writings of Jesus’ suffering at Golgotha pierce us deeply. The burial in the tomb brings despair. All hope is lost. But that is not the end of the story. It is on Sunday morning, in the graveyard that sorrow and grief are turned to joy, mourning changed to dancing and despair transformed into endless hope. Jesus Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.
May the experience of Easter be more than just an event on the church calendar. May we live each day in the newness of the resurrection, with home and joy.
— Andrew Wade is pastor of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Logan and a member of the Logan Ministerial Association.