The texts, tunes, and traditions of Easter Sunday are so powerful that I sit in the pew and wonder how anyone could not at least take a chance on believing in the Resurrection.
But this Easter, like every other, it took hardly any time at all to be confronted with the reality that our risen King reigns over a kingdom that is both now and not yet. For at almost the same time that we listened to a stirring sermon on “Giving Up Death,” a suicide bomber took the lives of dozens of women, men, and children celebrating Easter in a Lahore park.
I love the hopeful image of the “resurrection dawn.” But tonight, I’m struck more by what it means to see in the light of this day’s setting sun, when we need to look closely lest the world convince us that the old rhythms continue uninterrupted.
I won’t dare to tell the grief-stricken Christians of Pakistan where to look for hope. But I will make bold to see a resurrection sunset in another setting: the nursing home memory care ward we visited late this afternoon.
There was hope in the gathering of four generations of my wife’s family in that place, where my children tried to extend the peace and love of the risen Christ to their great-grandmother — living out a faith that was testified to them by my wife, who heard it from her father, who heard it from his mother, the woman who can’t remember her great-grandkids’ names but loves them as she’s able.
There was hope in another kind of familial gathering happening a few feet away, where a local Lutheran pastor volunteered another half-hour of his already exhausting week to lead worship for aging men and women made brothers and sisters in the same Christ who, from the Cross, told his mother and the disciple he loved that they were to become a family. I watched with wonder as Alzheimer’s patients whispered words they knew beyond the limits of memory: “Christ the Lord is risen today!” Truly, it was the sound of “Earth and heaven in chorus,” as they added their alleluias to all those sung everywhere today by the communion of saints.
There was hope in the fact that, for two thousand years, the followers of Jesus Christ — to whom people once brought (at sunset) “all who were sick or possessed with demons” — have been committed to healing those sick in body, mind, and spirit. There was hope in the faithful presence of nurses, doctors, therapists, counselors, social workers, and others who answer with their lives Christ’s call to alleviate pain and suffering, to care for those whose worth and dignity is most easily neglected.
So this Easter evening, as the lengthening shadows tempt you to think that nothing has actually changed, may the resurrection sunset kindle a hope that will flicker for another year: that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness — even the darkness of death and dying — does not overcome it.