"Give them not Hell, but

Hope and Courage."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Out of Darkness, into Light (Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012)

            Shortly after 10:30 or so last night, as I was thinking seriously about going to bed (for 4 AM comes mighty early on Sunday mornings), it seemed as though the title I had chosen for this year’s Easter reflections might have something of a (shall we say)  prophetic dimension to it. 

            I was planning on speaking about how Easter and the days leading up to it are all about moving from darkness into light. Then, last night, on the eve of Easter, the lights went out. With my sermon still locked on the computer on my desk; not much use there. If the power didn’t come back on soon, I thought, I was going to need an Easter miracle of my own to have anything much of interest to say!

            Well, as it turned out, the lights weren’t out long—about a half hour or so at our house. So, I will save my miracle for a later occasion, I guess. Power was restored; the sermon could be written and printed; and, as is so often the case, we restore the normal rhythms of our lives after some small dislocation of one kind or another.

            But even when the lights are on, the darkness can stay with us.

            Part of being human—part of the human condition—is that the darkness sometimes surrounds us. Call it brokenness or alienation, depression or despair, loneliness or grief. Whatever the darkness may mean for you, there is a tragic dimension to these lives we lead. It is inevitable. It comes with the territory.

            Some of this darkness is just part of the natural world of which we are part: everything changes; people get sick; those that we love all pass away. Some of it is caused by accidents, human error, seemingly by chance or fate: a bus full of school children on holiday hits a tunnel wall in the Swiss Alps, and 28 of them are killed; a great ocean liner strikes an iceberg in the North Atlantic and 1500 souls perish.

            Good Fridays? The world is full of them, every day of the week.

            Good Friday? We have all been there, or will be. Perhaps not as dramatically as Jesus on the Cross; perhaps not with as much physical pain (though political prisoners the world over, on this very day, are experiencing exactly the same pain). But we will all be wounded by this world, and we will experience our own dark night of the soul. We will be hurt. We will be disappointed. We will see those we care about treated unfairly, and there will be nothing we can do about it. We will all find ourselves locked away in the darkness of the tomb.

            But Easter is life’s declaration (some of us would say God’s declaration) that we don’t have to stay there. We don’t need to remain in the tomb. We don’t have to stay in the dark. We can turn on the lights. We can light a candle. We can move toward the light. We can know that even in the midst of darkness, an eternal flame shines within our souls.  As religious men and women on this day, that is our Easter declaration.

            There is at the heart of our existence a dream of life which refutes every challenge offered against life, and which affirms everything worthy of praise within life. All darkness and sorrow, all tears and shadow, all fears and sadness are cast away in the light of Easter’s eternal dream. In the glory of its light, all love and mercy and memory abide, triumphantly.

            Easter is our eternal reminder that the body can be abused and scourged and even nailed to a cross—the body may even be killed—our souls can lie dead and lifeless-- but that the indwelling spirit lives forever.

It is our reminder of the truth that in life and in history, the victim often becomes the victor—when our hearts and our minds, and our hands and our lives, are motivated by powers of faith and hope and love. Easter is our reminder that, in the end, God wins. Love wins. Truth will conquer.

            Easter is a reminder to us that pain, persecution, and suffering—even death itself—need not be ends in themselves, but can be passageways to life more true and more abundant. 

            Easter is our reminder that faith transforms the face of the world, and shines a holy light on these lives we lead.

Easter is our reminder that hope never dies; it always comes springing back to life.

            Easter is our reminder that love lives forever, though those we love may be long gone.

            At Easter we remember that which we ordinarily forget all too often:  that there is a power at work in the world which leads each human soul to rise above its prison of prejudice, pettiness, and hatred—and to seek, and to glimpse, and to find—even in this fallen world, even in this difficult life—evidence of the coming of the Kingdom of God. 

            “Join the in the dance of the earth’s jubilation!

            This is the feast of the love of God.

            Shout from the heights to the ends of creation…”

            Jesus has risen from the tomb. And so can we.

            The Earth is alive again. And so are we.

            Faith has rolled away the stone of doubt.

            Hope has banished the clouds of fear.

            And holy love is poured forth, through us, its human vessels, across the face of the whole world.


Turn on the light. For if you do, then Easter will once again work its blessed miracle of light and life and love in our hearts this day and forever and ever.  Amen.

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