Monday, April 6, 2015

Reflections on Easter 2015

Easter, which celebrates Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead, is Christianity's most important holiday. Easter is a time for reflections: on the past, the present, and the future. I did that again this year, after an unusual (at least for me) and an unholy (for many) Holy Week.

The past for me was remembering many deaths during the past year. I lost several friends and acquaintances, as you no doubt did too. I also lost my mother, who died the week after Easter last year.

Easter Sunday a year ago I had to go to Ottawa urgently since my mother was not expected to live much longer. As it happened, she hung on for another week. She had prayed for a long time that God would end her suffering and take her home. The following Sunday, God did. What was a joy for her left her six children, their spouses, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, with a mixture of joy and sorrow: happiness for her, but sorrow for themselves.

The memory of Easter sustained and comforted my family at the time: Christ has risen! That is the guarantee of our resurrection and, indeed, the resurrection of the entire creation. The past already anticipates the future.

Christ is victorious; he has won the victory and release creation from the bondage imposed by sin. But death, as Paul reminds us, is the final enemy to be destroyed (1 Cor. 15:26). One day -- very soon, we hope -- death will be no more. Maranatha! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Unfortunately, death is still here, as I was reminded again a few days ago by the news of the death of yet another friend. The present impinges itself harshly and cruelly every day when we hear about death and suffering or experience it personally.

Our world is an unholy one. We only has to open our newspapers to discover that. The past week they were filled with many horror stories.

A truly tragic story, coming only days before Easter, was the murder in cold blood of 147 Christian students and guards at Garissa University in Kenya by al-Shabaab. On Easter Sunday relatives of the murdered students had to identify the dead. Some way to spend Easter!

The week before the copilot of a plane committed suicide and took all the passengers and crew with him to their untimely deaths in the French Alps. This seems to have been a premeditated act by a mentally-ill man. What does Easter mean to those who lost loved ones that day?

All of us can add to this list of tragedies. All of us have witnessed many tragedies of a personal nature as well as experienced the numerous aches and pains that our mortal flesh is heir to. In fact, the whole creation is groaning in anticipation for its renewal (Rom. 8:22).

Then pain and tears will be no more: "[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Rev. 21:4, NIV).

This year Holy Week was very different from previous years for me. Usually I attend as many church services as I can during that week, but not this time. A sore back derailed my plans so much that I was only able to worship in church on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Even though the pain has lessened appreciatively, even now I still experience some pain. Next week I hope to leave for Africa for a few weeks to help orient a colleague at a university there. Thus I want to be in good enough shape to do that.

I will not be blogging during those two weeks, but hope to do so again after my return to Canada.

Thus the present is a constant reminder that the past is still with us, and the future remains a promise and not yet a full reality. The gospel reading for Easter Sunday spoke forcefully to me, and thus I want to share it with you now:

Mark 16:1-8 (NIV) When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?" 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 6 "Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'" 8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Christ has risen! He is not here! In other words, he is no longer dead, but he is very much alive. The short ending of this gospel leaves the disciples afraid to tell anyone the good news, but soon Christ commanded them to tell the whole world. And the rest, as they say, is history.

That is why I am repeating it now. This was the good news I needed to hear again. All of us, whether believers or not, need hear it because the whole creation is involved.

Christ's resurrection provides comfort to all those who have lost loved ones. It is not only an assurance of their resurrection and that of those whom they loved, but it also assures everyone who experiences the groaning of creation. All of them and all of us, too, eagerly await a renewed world where all the painful things people endure now will disappear forever.

On that day all inequalities will end, all environmental problems will disappear, and all injustices will cease.  What a glorious promise!

I for one am eagerly looking forward to that day. It cannot come soon enough! A day when God's glory will illuminate everything and the kings of the earth will bring their treasures into God's holy city (Rev. 21:23-24).

This promise is not only for Christians but it includes everyone in the world. This is not an example of Christian triumphalism, but it points the entire creation to a future where the past and present will be seen in a new light.

These were some of my reflections on Easter Sunday. They helped me. I hope they can help you as well.

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