Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring, Life, Resurrection, EASTER

As I look out of my office window, I see green! New life is sprouting all around. Flowers are dancing their spring two-steps around the yard, and feathered friends I haven't seen since last fall have shown up for a meal. The world outside is bursting with new life.

I hardly think of spring without thinking of Easter. We will be celebrating the glorious resurrection of the Lord this year with special services and activities. I hope each and every one of you will attend as much as you can. These days we need all the celebrations of the resurrection that we can get!

As Easter approaches I am reminded distinctly of two things: life and death. I have tried to recall when in my childhood I first experienced death. Growing up on a dairy farm had its share of dark moments when death was a certain reality. I thought of pets that met their demise from various diseases and accidents, the rodents and rabbits slain by a mower blade, and so on.

When I was about five years old one of our cows was trying to birth a calf. I loved baby calves, and I was excited to get to play with this new one in the calf barn in a day or two. Sadly though, neither the cow nor the calf survived the birth. As the cow lay so still and silent on the cold ground, I noticed my daddy's face. In a way I can't put into words, I suddenly realized that death was something awful; a bad and fearful thing.

In contrast to that day, I also experienced life on the farm. We raised chickens, turkeys, ducks, and guineas on the farm. In the winter months, daddy hatched out chicks in the basement. Our farmhouse basement was not the comfortable, carpeted, big rooms we might think of today, but rather a cold damp place where you put your canned tomatoes and green beans for the winter. That was where we had the eggs in a naked-bulbed incubator.

It seemed to me that it took forever to hatch an egg. Every evening the eggs had to be turned over. Why? I have no idea. But daddy said it had to be done and carefully. So up on a rickety stool I stood, helping him turn the eggs over and waiting for the first sign of a crack in an egg.

A crack meant that the time was getting close; the time when the baby chick would begin to emerge from its shell. Everything about a hatching egg is excruciatingly tedious. But soon after a crack appeared, things began to move more quickly. I still remember wanting to hurry the process by "helping" the little chicken out. Daddy always warned me, "He has to do it himself. In being born he gets strong."

In a while the little chick would have a big enough hole for his head to poke out. He would begin to breathe and wiggle, and then flop out of his shell...alive! What an ugly thing he was, wet, sticky, eyes like tiny Saran-wrapped marbles too big for his head.

Eventually his panting would enable him to get to his feet, wobble around like a drunk for a while, fall over, get up and go again. As we watched the chicks be born, daddy's face showed me something else...that life...especially new a completely wonderful thing to behold!

Life and death; the two certainties of existence on this planet. As humans we experience them both. What I learned from dad when I was little is true for us all, life is wonderful; death is not. Death is that awful, fearful moment when life ceases, and the loss of it is almost too much to bear.

If that moment was all we had to look forward to, then our existence would be pretty meaningless. But, thanks be to God, death is not the end of us whose faith is in Jesus Christ. That is what the celebration of Easter and the resurrection means.

Easter is the celebration of our new life; our emergence into the life of Jesus Christ. It is in Christ that we humans, in our wobbly, wet, weak flesh have eternal access to the bright, never-ending life of God. The resurrection is the presence and the power of life itself. Jesus has conquered death once and for all. That is the good news. That is why we celebrate Easter.

So this Easter season, live with the fresh assurance that death has no power over you. In Jesus Christ, you are born again and live a new life!

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