What’s the hurry? What’s the hurry to put away Easter after Easter Sunday?
When diners at a local restaurant noticed that cut-out colored eggs were decorating a window last week, someone complained, “When are they going to take them down? Easter was over days ago!” In the diners’ judgment it was as bad as being served stale bread and warmed over food.
Of course, whenever someone implies Easter is but one day, I am ready to intone the response,
“No, Easter is a season with a count of 50 days!”
Today we are only 15 days into that count; with 35 more to spend doing what Canadian journalist Carl Honore calls “trying to find his inner tortoise.”- a good model for Easter Christians who, in a day when anything designed to be quick and easy is still too long. What is waiting to be found, what is waiting to be experienced when we commit to going through the 50 days of Easter at the pace of the tortoise?
Today’s Gospel is filled with words spoken by the Christ of the empty tomb which are there for us to ponder – slowly, deliberately, unhurriedly.
To understand the scriptures…the first five books of the Old Testament, the Hebrew prayer-song book, the Psalms, and sermons of the prophets, the “scriptures” of Jesus’ day, with Isaiah being the “scripture” that pictured God’s promised one coming as a servant to minister to the poor and rejected; a shepherd caring for the sheep; and even the lamb sacrificed at Passover for the sins of the people…“scripture’s” description of God’s intended appearance in human flesh; as a child said of Jesus, “God with a face.”
One of the exercises we sometimes get the time to do in Confirmation Class is to take a piece of paper and draw a picture frame around the edges; then place a plaque at the bottom and write in the name “God.” Next, the names for God are etched in as the grain in the frame, with the dominate one being “Yahweh” simply meaning “I am” – what Moses was told when he demanded to know what to call the God who as speaking to him through a burning bush.
Jesus is the image that steps into that frame as He becomes the details to complete God’s “I am” with: Good shepherd, living water, living bread, light, the resurrection and the life.
Someone when touring an art museum said he did not come to look at the paintings and sculpture but to let them gaze at him, to affect him through their shapes and colors. That’s what Easter’s days are meant to be for us:
to be affected by Jesus’ details of God in living color meant to penetrate into our life; Jesus: a portrait of the “I am” God to ponder – slowly, deliberately, unhurriedly through the word “scripture.”
Another word of the Easter Jesus to ponder is repentance. A turning from to turn to, a changing from to redirect to, “repentance” that involves direction and conduct. Easter’s days are a time to trace that word back to Jesus,
to turn to Him and be redirected by Him…beginning with copying Him in the time breaks He took.
A few weeks ago I got up early enough to see the Eastern sky coming alive with light – something many of you see regularly, but, for me it was a special occasion. As I sat and watched I felt drawn to the peoples and lands on which the sun had first shone as it made its way into our time zone: I felt drawn into their company and the call to name them in prayer…in that unhurried time before rushing into a new day.
But more than that, the morning light awakened my thoughts to pondering that first day when God called creation into being, and when the Easter Christ pierced the darkness of death with His living presence…a reality that took His closest friends days and weeks to believe, but when daring to accept, “repented” - turned from disbelieving to embracing the new life Christ intended to live through them, beginning in everyday ways and places.
A friend of ours reported on their family gathering at Christmas when everyone was able to come home for the festive meal and then moved into the living room to be around the fireplace aglow with burning logs. It was a sight that also warmed his heart until he noticed every family member was busy texting rather than talking to one another, and he had no one to talk to; no one was taking the time to really be family in one another’s company.
The morning light of a new day is but one call to “repent,” to turn from the pervasiveness, the sin, of being controlled by our over-connected life that is disconnecting us from God and from one another; the hurried life that Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist said isn’t “of the devil. It is the devil.”
The days of Easter are a time to ponder – slowly, deliberately, unhurriedly through Jesus’ word “repentance,”
And there is the Easter Jesus’ “forgiveness of sins” that echoes back to Good Friday when He turned His cross into a pulpit to shout, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
In the Apostle Paul's letters to the church in Colossae and Ephesus, he reminded them they were to make Jesus’ prayer the practiced ministry of the Christian community. They were to forgive one another as freely as Christ had
forgiven them. (Col. 3:13; Eph. 4:32) which at times is seemingly impossible to do and when tried takes time to bring ourselves to both forgive and accept forgiveness.
In Jeanne Bishop’s book, Change of Heart, she tells the story of a high school junior, David Biro, breaking into the home of her pregnant sister and husband, waiting for them to return from dinner, and shooting them to death.
At trial he showed no remorse and insisted he was innocent even though the evidence proved he wasn’t, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. She thought she gotten what she wanted, but the trauma of the murder had her examining her comfortable life and lucrative legal practice.
She resigned to work for the Public Defender, representing young men like Biro. She studied scripture and rediscovered stories of Moses, David, and Saul of Tarsus – murderers God forgave and used for good.
Finally, she wrote a long letter to Biro and got a reply in which he confessed his guilt for the first time.
After visiting him in prison, she admitted, “My part is to be obedient to God’s call for forgiveness. I cannot change the heart of the killer, but God can.”
God can and God has in Jesus’ plea from the cross that echoes through the nail-pierced hands of the Easter Christ, inviting us to give over to Him what we say is unforgivable and whomever we can’t bring ourselves to forgive, but Christ can and does, and there is no better time than these days of Easter to work - slowly, deliberately, unhurriedly through “forgiveness of sins.” and become this generation’s witnesses to the words of the Easter Jesus. Amen.