Easter at Harrow United Church

When I was a little boy, we lived in a drafty old house. On winter mornings I would go to my bedroom window, and most of the single pane glass would be covered in frost crystals. It took the light of the morning sun to shine through, and make them visible. The frost on the glass was different each time, as no two snowflakes are identical.

I would gaze with utter fascination at the frost patterns in the window. They were like glimpses into a secret reality we don’t usually see.  I get the same sense of awe and mystery when rock hunting on a beach, and I find a fossil, or when I go outside after dark and see the night sky, laced with bright and distant stars. There is so much to God’s wondrous creation. We can’t explain everything. There is a lot that remains unknown, mysterious.

There are many aspects to life that we can see, and feel, and not understand.  How does love work? How is it we can look into one person’s eyes, and feel a connection, and suddenly they matter to us? We notice there is nobody else quite like this person. We are joyfully reminded that every person we know, every person we meet is a unique creation like a snowflake or a frosty window. The light shines through them in a way that is different from every other person. How is that possible?

How do our lives work? Do we exist somehow, as a soul before we are born into flesh? When our physical lives are over, where does our spirit, our soul go?

The story of the first Easter morning can take our imaginations to a place of awe and mystery, to a renewed sense that there is more to life and to death than we know.

Back to my bedroom window.  To see the beautiful patterns, I would need to get out of bed. Our old house was not well insulated.  I think my parents set the thermostat low to save money. There were many mornings I hesitated to get out of bed. I knew if I got out of my blanket cocoon, I’d be cold. It is lovely to lie toasty warm under the covers. You can put an arm out and test the air, and let yourself feel a bit of the cold, and then quickly pull your arm back in, and warm it up again.

Our spring has been a long time coming, and is trying so hard to be spring. Like a cold engine trying to turn over, so we can get the car moving. After the cold grey of winter we love it when our mornings are warm, and bright.

This hope is urged on by the turning wheel, the cycle of the seasons. We remember the annual journey from the warm promise of spring, to the extravagant heat and life of summer, the inevitable descent into fall, deep into the cold of winter, and the eventual return to spring. Over and over, we experience the journey from birth, to thriving life, to the beginning of decline, to death, and once again to the ever surprising miracle of new life.

Darkness and light, chilling cold and restoring warmth are natural symbols to use, to talk about the mysterious, spiritual dimension of our lives.

The first Easter morning was dark and cold. Jesus’ friends had watched him die on the cross. They saw his body pierced with a spear and were there when blood and water gushed out. They arranged for his body to be carried to a borrowed tomb.  They were there when the tomb was sealed. As the sky darkened a huge rock, cut specially for the purpose, was rolled in to block the entrance to the cave, to keep out wild animals and looters.

Early, early in the morning, before the sun rose, a few from Jesus’ inner circle woke up. Perhaps they had to convince themselves to get out of bed. They faced the cold and dark of their first day without the one who had lit up their days, and warmed their hearts from the inside with his presence, and with his teachings about God’s love.

They may not have wanted to brave that dark, cold, scary place, the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid. They overcame their fear, and paralyzing sadness, to be there with the dawn. It was against their faith to do any work on the Sabbath, which ended with the rising of the sun. The new day was the time to wash and anoint Jesus’ body, so it might have a decent burial.

The sun began to rise above the curve of the earth, and began to push away the gloom of night- but did not have the power to brighten their spirits, to warm their bewildered grieving hearts.

The morning sun claimed the sky, and lit up the world. Light revealed that somehow, the heavy stone had been rolled away. In one version of the story, a mysterious figure says that Jesus was no longer in the dark tomb- he’d been raised from the dead. Another version describes angels at the tomb, and it is a heavenly messenger who rolls away the stone.

Each of the gospels tells the story of Easter morning with different details. Maybe they are like frosted windows, or snowflakes, beautiful in their own way, hinting to us that there is much about the world we live in that is mysterious.

I suspect the resurrection news sunk into their hearts before it made sense in their heads. At times our hearts are warmed, and lead us towards the awareness that something important has happened, long before our minds can process it. Matthew’s gospel describes Jesus’ friends as being deep in wonder and full of joy. They knew themselves to be in the presence of the unique warmth and light of their friend.

This probably did not make sense to them at first- how could it? But over the next few days they heard more stories, and saw things that warmed their hearts, and helped them to trust what they had been told in that early morning light. Jesus had been raised.

We who seek after Jesus today are a lot like his first followers.  We look for the light and warmth that makes the cold and darkness of this world bearable. We look for spring after the grey winter. We look for hope, and meaning.

The Easter stories tell us that God’s love, and God’s hopes and dreams for us could not be buried away in the darkness of a cold stone tomb. God rose Jesus from death, so we would know that there is nothing, not even death, that is stronger than God’s love. 

Love shines through, and brings warmth and hope back into our world. Amen

God of Life:

You are alive, and we are alive, and all those we love,

even those who have died, are alive in you.

For life, and for love, we give you thanks.

There are many signs of new life in our midst……

We give you thanks for the coming of spring, and for all the signs of new life. We thank you also for the mystery and excitement of the Easter story. Help us to bring the power of that story into the lives of those around us. Help us to spread the hope of new beginnings, and bright new mornings, that come after even the darkest nights.

In this holiday time, when families gather, let us pray for safe travel for those who will be on journeys to and from their homes. We pray also for those who are away from home, and unable to be with their loved ones. We think of those in prison, those in the military, and others whose work takes them far afield.

Let us also pray for those whose family lives are difficult. We pray for peace, reconciliation, and kindness in those situations. We pray for new possibilities of love, and beyond the hardship and broken relationships that some people experience.

We also remember those who are living with loss. The death of a loved one, whether it happened this week or decades ago can cast a shadow on times of celebration. Help us to be sensitive to those whose hearts may be heavy with grief.

We pray for those who are ill, at home or in hospital. We pray for those who are lonely, especially those in nursing homes. We pray also for caregivers who continue their duties through these holiday times, and bring compassion and love to work with them

We give you thanks for the stories of our faith, and the community in which they come to life. We pray for our church, and the other faith communities that help people to find meaning and purpose, and joy in life. We pray especially with gratitude for the generous hearts of all those who give their time, and their resources, to keep this an active, life-filled, and life-giving church.

We pray for those in the community, the world around us, who may have an emptiness inside them, as they live through another Easter holiday without a deeper understanding of the new life that God offers us in Jesus. May their search for meaning and purpose lead them to a place where they experience the love and acceptance of God.


1 Comment

  1. Ann-Marie says:

    Happy Easter

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