Friday, April 6, 2012

Human History's Crowning Event

This weekend we'll be commemorating the single most important event in all of human history. A first century itinerant teacher's death. But don't forget the rest of that bit of history. Jesus wasn't just a great teacher. He also created the known universe. He was the only One who could solve my sin problem, and He did it ... and then He proved it by leaving the empty tomb. Imagine. Climbing out of one's own grave. The ultimate "it is finished." I've spent a great part of my adult life trying to wrap my brain around that concept and I just can't do it. Faith has to step in at some point, because it just isn't humanly comprehensible. Which is OK by me. Who needs a God they can explain.

Yesterday as I was scraping off the layer of "I'm finishing this book and I need that ... all of it ... right here" which usually creates a nest of stacks of research in the center of which I sit furiously pounding away ... I listened to a new album by Jason Gray. And when it came to the song "A Way to See in the Dark," I sat down. Reached for the lyrics. And replayed it. And I imagined the apostles gathered in a dark place. Hiding away ... and wishing they could see a way through the darkness that descended with Jesus--their hope--lay in a tomb. Thought I'd share that song with you as part of this unconventional post.


In one of my former lives I was a secretary at the University of Nebraska (back in the day we were still called secretaries). One of my bosses was a devout Roman Catholic whose wife wrote an award-winning column for the local newspaper. I'd like to share her 1986 column about Easter. It isn't intended to spoil the fun ... fun is great ("He gives us all good things to richly enjoy"). But it's also a challenge to remember the primary purpose for this season we celebrate every spring. Mrs. Costello was the mother of a tribe of kids, and I hear her challenging herself with these words. To remember the primary purpose. Wisdom from over a quarter of a century ago by one Mary Costello:
Two thousand years ago, an itinerant preacher was hanged as a common criminal. He died on some trumped-up charges, probably because he was different. Mainly, the problem was he didn't fit in with those in authority, and they were afraid of him. He was going around the countryside doing some strange things and stirring up trouble. So they thought they'd better get rid of him--as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

And that's how we continue to commemorate his death--as quickly and efficiently as possible. "Oh, yes. Good Friday. I remember that. But I have to work."

This man, who was  God, died for us. To redeem us, and to bring us to his father. And we remember his death with pink stuffed bunnies and chocolate eggs.

He was tortured, hung on a cross with nails in his hands and feet. He was beat with a whip and tortured with a helmet of nails pushed into his scalp. I'll try to remember that between commercials on "Miami Vice" Friday night.

His mother placed him in the tomb and arranged the clothes around him with her own hands. Well, some businesses do close at noon on Good Friday.

After three days in the tomb, the preacher rose from the dead. It was the most magnificent, glorious miracle in the history of mankind. To celebrate that event, I'll get all the kids new shoes.

It was an event that changed the course of history, for all time. It was the focal point, the turning point of man's existence. "Church on Easter. Yes, that would be nice. All the little girls in their bonnets and pink sweaters. But we'll probably just sleep in--haven't had a Sunday off in ages."

His resurrection says to us: "Have hope. I love you. I came to save you; to bring you to heaven with me." So we dig out the little plastic baskets, fill them with green plastic grass and arrange chocolate eggs and jelly beans. Jelly beans have become a great symbol of hope to all Americans. Does that strike you as strange?

To everyone he met, after he rose and left the tomb, he said, "My peace be with you." In memory of that, and to bring peace into my own life, I will spend the entire week before Easter dashing around town, buying candy and eggs and shoes and new stockings to match dresses that will only be worn once, and we will spend Sunday eating too much and fighting over who ate all the marshmallow chicks.

His friends were so happy to see him, they cried. They understood. Between the egg hunt and the ham and scalloped potatoes, if I have a minute, I'll try to remember how they felt.

He lived and died for us, so that we might have life everlasting, but also so that our lives could be filled with hope and peace and joy. In the weeks after Easter--when the world is filled with new life and tiny blue lilac buds, and palest green grass and all the wonders spring brings to us--I'll try to remember his life, and what it has taught me. I hope it's more than pink stuffed bunnies.

Blessed Easter to you and yours from Stephanie!