|Union University Church|
By Reverend Laurie DeMott
March 23, 2008
morning, I took an early walk with my dog Zack. As I tramped around my property
bundled up against the 15 degree chill, my feet crunched through the half
foot of frozen ice and snow that still grips the land. The unusually cold
temperatures of March have kept the daffodils and crocuses huddled beneath
the soil. Not a snow drop has dared showed its face. And on the Belmont
hill where I live, the Arctic of Allegany County, the few moments of weak
sunshine have not been able to penetrate the snowpack; while the village
of Alfred now sports the colorful hues of brown – burnt umber, raw
sienna, sepia, mud – my house is still locked in a vast expanse of
white. Our annual Easter egg hunt in which John and Zack compete to find
eggs I have hidden around the property will turn into a race to the swiftest
since the reds and blues and greens of the Easter eggs are going to stick
out like splotches of paint spattered on a blank canvas.
All of this is to say that it just doesn't look much like Easter up on my hill.
But as I was tramping around my snow-locked property yesterday grumbling about the committee that decided Easter would be the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, thus subjecting us to the prospect of such chilly celebrations, I noticed something rather amazing. Though the thermometer said 15 degrees, though the bulbs are still dozing in frozen slumber and the creeks remain locked in ice, all around me the birds were singing. Chickadees called to one another through the trees. A flock of 50 Cedar Waxing buzzed and chortled in flight overhead. A Robin perched in the top of a Scotch pine and sang his proclamation -- "My territory, my territory. This is where I will bring my mate. This is where we will build our nest. This is where we will raise our young. My territory. My home!"
The birds don't care that the world is still white with snow. They don't think about how unlikely their prospects look or how impossible the job may seem right now. They are still singing. They know that in spite of the evidence of their eyes, it is spring and they have work to do. It is time to be setting up house.
Because Easter comes in the springtime, it is a holiday that we use to mark the passing of the winter and look forward to the promise of new birth in the land. For we who are winter weary, an Easter without a hint of springtime warmth may feel like a hollow promise that hasn’t come through. But...
“Ah, true,” I will answer you, “but the resurrection of Jesus is about a promise of new life as well, and how many times do we hear that promise but look around and see as little evidence for the resurrection as we see this year for the coming of spring?”
Maybe there is more of a chance for the earth to look like Easter when we celebrate it in April but celebrating in April doesn’t make it any more likely that your life will look more like the resurrection Christ promises. Celebrating in April doesn’t make it any more likely that our world will look like the resurrection Christ promises. On Easter, we proclaim the possibility of rebirth for the world – that God is victorious over the powers of death and brings forth life from the tomb – we sing it, we pray it, we announce it to packed churches stuffed full of lilies and thundering with music... and then we go home to the same old chilly hearts and barren wastelands that we knew before Easter. Nothing looks new at all. Tomorrow it is going to look like the same old worn out world with its wars and hatred, its broken hearts and petty irritations, its fatigue and demands and misunderstandings and all of the grief that we knew before Easter came, whether Easter comes in chilly March or warm April.
In John 14, the disciples are disturbed by Jesus’ talk of death and they are not really comforted by his promise of resurrection. Death they understand. Death they see all around them. The cruelty of people and the oppressive powers of the government are something they have all experienced and because they have learned to fear the power of the authorities over them, they try to persuade Jesus to give up this course. But Jesus tells them not to worry because God's love will win out in the end and he will be raised to new life. Still they are not comforted. They know all too well how crucifixion works but they have no idea how resurrection works. "What do you mean you will live again? How can that happen? How will you reveal yourself to us after you are dead?" they ask.
And Jesus says to them, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them."
This is what I believe Easter means. I believe that Easter is the singing of birds who refuse to accept the evidence of their eyes of a world frozen in death but are by the evidence of a feeling in their bones that it is time to set up housekeeping. No matter how unlikely the prospects look, they know that there is work to be done and it starts today.
I believe that Easter is not what happened 2000 years ago at a tomb outside of Jerusalem, but Easter is what happens today when we say, “Regardless of how unlikely it looks that God’s love can flourish in this world, no matter how fallow a field my heart may feel like right now, it is time to get busy and get to work clearing a place for Jesus to set up housekeeping in our hearts so that he can live again through us.
Easter is not just a promise; it is an assignment. Easter is the springtime
of souls and there is work to do, a home to build for Jesus so that life
can come through us. Feel the promise stirring in your bones. Feel the
hope rising in your soul. God says to us, “I am knocking at your
door because Jesus has risen and he needs a place to stay, so sing your