Another day comes and goes on this journey towards eternity with yet another holiday passing since the days when you were last with us. Your momma wrote a few days back about how Easter has changed for our family over the past 7+ years starting with your Great-Aunt Alma’s passing. You’ve met her by now along with a host of other Saints that have gone on before. I’m not talking about Angels, though you’ve undoubtedly seen many of them, but people whom we’ve cherished that have “put on immortality” to use the words of the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 15:53).
I can’t even begin to imagine what that must be like. Christ Himself told us that He went ahead to prepare a place for us. A “room” of sorts in a house that only He can build. The Revelation provides us a glimpse of what life will be like, but I sort of like how C. S. Lewis pictured this in the last book in the Narnia series. When it’s finally my turn and He calls my name for the last time, then I’ll see first-hand what you already know. I’ll see a place where every day, every experience is better than anything that I could imagine. But even still, each experience is better than the previous. A chain of experiences with each one exponentially better than the previous one without end. It’s rather difficult for a finite mind such as mine to grasp something so beyond my comprehension, but one thing is certain, I’ll have plenty of Saints to share it with, including you.
I tried today to think about what food must taste like for you. A few months back I tried a new chocolate based rub on some steaks that was simply delightful but then again just a few days ago we tried a pineapple / teriyaki / garlic based marinade that stole my heart. I wonder if every bite that you take has each flavor that you enjoy as a part, or if you enjoy the same flavor for an entire meal. I know if your brothers had that option today it would be a mound of chicken-nuggets…probably from Chick-fil-a (how we love that place). Of course you eat for the joy of doing so, not because you need or require any sort of nourishment where you are. I suppose it also helps that you have the Creator of the universe as your Chef. I expect you delight in Him as much as He delights in you. There’s a great deal of comfort for me in knowing that.
I thought I would share with you some things that have been on my mind over the last few days. You see, Easter is a powerful time for me that has grown greater still in recent years. It started many years back when I decide to continue my education at CBC. It’s worth noting that when I say “I decided,” I don’t really mean that. Most often it means that I set aside my own ambitions and aspirations and actually listened to that still-small voice that guided me to a place where I would find the joy of serving others. This was not the path that I was on and I saw first-hand much of what this world has to offer and decided to take another route – the road that is open to all but strangely is the path less traveled.
For many Christians, it is the Christmas season that stirs their faith. Rightfully so. It’s a wonderful time of year to celebrate the birth of the God-child: when the “Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). While I firmly love Christmas for what it’s supposed to be (not what the world tries to tell us that it should be), it’s Easter that inspires me because of who He is, what He did, and who He did it for.
Ps 51 has been on my mind these last few days. It’s the who He did it for that continues to rattle me. Put plainly, He did it for me. He did it for you. If He had to do it over again, He would. His perfect plan included the birth, death and resurrection of the Son, to the glory of the Father. Do I fully understand all that this means? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean the words of the Psalmist are not my own words when I allow my heart to be honest.
“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your loving kindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.”
I love this Psalm. Do I really consider that all my sins, those that I do knowingly and intentionally and those that I do unknowingly are all ultimately a sin against a holy and just God? I look at another man whom I’ve deprived a blessing and think I’ve sinned against him but the Scriptures teach something different. I watched children playing the other day and saw one gesturing toward the other in a way that undoubtedly caused offense. I doubt the one “making fun” realized they were not sinning against the other, but that they were causing an abomination to the righteous One who bled and hung on that cross for their sins: for my sins.
“Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
Christ is my substitution. The actions were mine. The words were mine. The sin was mine. The punishment should have been mine. But that’s the beauty of His gift and that’s the freedom found in Easter. Recently I’ve read another great fallacy repeated. “A man is the sum of his experiences.” This sounds good and seems reasonable but it’s woefully wrong. A man (or woman) is defined by their relationships and more specifically, their single relationship with the Author of life. Christ is the well-spring. You either know Him personally and allow yourself to walk with Him, or you work against Him. It’s when you know Him as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), are you able to know the freedom from the sum of your experiences. This, my sweet girl, is not something you’ll ever have to know. You were born to Him. You were born clean. It is I that need this freedom.
“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit”
It must seem strange to those that don’t know me how I can celebrate Easter, your first birthday, the fact that you’re with Jesus, and the joy found in life yet at the same time mourn for your absence. That’s the paradox in which we often times find ourselves. Walking with Jesus is hardly a promise of immunity from adversity, but it’s the promise that we’re neither alone, nor is this all in vain. Through the foreknowledge of God, the great script called life was spoken into existence by Christ (Col 1:16), the same God-child that was born in the manger and suffered a terrible death for humanity’s sake on the cross. He knew the potential of His creation as well as our choices, and intertwined them into a remarkable garment that plays out until He comes again. All the while, I have the opportunity to experience joy anew every time I put the needs of someone else ahead of my own. Am I always successful in this endeavor? Clearly not. Do I practice to get better at it? Daily.
This brings me back to Easter and what it means that the tomb was found empty. I’m a little humored that the tomb wasn’t entirely empty. It was orderly with the death linens folded neatly. Mankind tried and did their worst. God came to show us the way and we killed Him for it. I would like to think that if I had been alive when Jesus walked the earth that I would have been one of His disciples. Probably not part of the twelve, but perhaps part of the 500. However, the reality that I know in my heart is the same that the Psalmist knew. I doubt that I would have been one of His followers. I would have been one in the crowd screaming for His death. I would have been part of the mob, not helping my fellow man but clamoring for justice. A self-absorbed righteousness that clouds the mind and often times prevents me from seeing the opportunity in adversity.
Hence the need for the resurrection. When I think about it, God could just wave His mighty hand across the sky daily and demonstrate His presence to an unbelieving world. Surely this would prove to everyone that He’s more than a “sky-fairy” or a fanciful dream that some men have created. But what kind of a god would it be to create the freedom of choices, then uses coercion to remove them? Ours is a God that elected to become a man, to experience the sufferings of men, to die a painful and gruesome death and to demonstrate His authority over death by means of the Resurrection on the third day. There’s little debate about the historical account of a man from Galilee named Jesus of Nazareth. There is however, great debate about the historical account of His resurrection. Of course, this was as true in the first century as it is today, nearly 2000 years later.
It wasn’t the fact that Jesus was born that makes His life so consequential. It was the fact that after just three short years of healing the sick, feeding the poor, touching the untouchable and teaching mankind of a better way to live that He was crucified and shortly thereafter, He rose again that makes Him so important to me. He gives me hope that no matter how bad my sin is, no matter how large the divide between what I know and what I do, He stands with an outstretched arm lifting me and carrying me through my failures. It’s little wonder to me that the Apostle Paul felt the resurrection as so essential to salvation, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9)
I picture you in His arms and by now, after a year’s time, you’re exploring so much of the world around you. I know you’ll find the holes in His hands and perhaps the hole in His feet and you may wonder why He did it. It’s because He knew your daddy, who loves you uncontrollably at times. It’s because He knows your mommy, who still weeps for you and misses you. It’s because He knows your brothers, who talk about you and cannot wait to celebrate your birthday in a few days. I know I’ll see you again soon. His resurrection is the proof of that.
That’s why Easter is so important to me. Love you baby girl.