Spring’s joyful hope
The resurrection is a tour de force that carries us with it. - Lakewood Advocate Magazine March, 2018
Springtime in the Northern Hemisphere coincides with the Christian celebration of Easter. We experience the transition from winter to spring, whether the moveable feast of Easter is early (late March) or late (late April) one year to the next. Death gives way to life, barren ground to budding trees.
Before the event that gave rise to the celebration — the resurrection of Jesus from the dead — the world had millennia to observe the truths of nature. Nature spoke the word of God before the Word of God became flesh or the words of holy men (presumably all men) became the Word of God, the Bible. Even the Bible says so: The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. The earth speaks, too.
Jesus himself used a farming metaphor to tip us off to what was coming: Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Jesus understood the nature of nature. Everything that lives dies. We all get that part, but the big unanswered question of human existence is whether everything that dies will live again.
Christian claims of life after death derive primarily from the shocking experience of the early church in watching Jesus die on a cross and three days later finding not only an empty tomb but also a resurrected Christ. What was always true of nature was also shown now to be true of one human being.
Sadly, we often treat the resurrection of Jesus from the dead as a one-off event that happened to the Son of God, rather than a tour de force that carries us with it. What God did in and for Jesus, however, was a sign of what God has always been doing for all creation and will always be doing for all creatures. Resurrection is built into everything.
What does belief have to do with it? Believing in the resurrection of Jesus and putting faith in him as the Son of God doesn’t make something happen for the believer that wouldn’t happen otherwise; it transforms the way we live in the world now as people of living hope in a world dominated by death.
When test pilot Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier for the first time, space travel became possible. It always was possible, but now we could imagine it and live into that new future, exploring the expanse of space up close. In like manner, the barrier of death has been breached in Christ’s resurrection.
Easter Sunday will bring out bonnets and bunnies, little girls in white dresses and flower crosses. The deeper truth that those things symbolize is that God is at work raising all things to new life. Justice will be done, peace will prevail, love will win, grief will give way to joy, enemies will be reconciled, and hope will not be disappointed.
Christianity proclaims a universal hope that the universe itself is brimming with hope.