Sunday, April 16, 2006

Promises made real

Our church published a book of devotionals for Lent; today's Easter Sunday devotional is below. (Matt and I joke that I am now the devotional "closer" for our church as my selection for the Advent book was printed for Christmas Eve and this Lenten piece was chosen for Easter!)

But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay." (Matthew 28: 5-6)

In March 1993 we learned without any true anticipation that my mother was sick with pancreatic cancer and dying rapidly. Life changed overnight, in more ways than I could ever recount in a few simple sentences. I withdrew from college to live at home, and the members of my family took turns spending time with my mother, soaking up her presence while she was still with us. We sought her forgiveness for past mistakes, asked for advice for the too-long future we would face without her, and expressed our love for the woman she had become. This time was deeply spiritual, and I expressed to God the full range of emotions I was feeling—the anger, the sense of betrayal, the surprising moments of peace and clarity, and inexplicable gratitude in the midst of agonizing sadness. It seemed fitting that my mother entered the final days of her life on the eve of Palm Sunday, asking us to pray with her, awaiting her own triumphal entry into the heavenly city. She died on Tuesday of Holy Week, and we moved through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday feeling as never before Jesus’ pleas to his friends and to God, and the tremendous grief enveloping Mary, Mary Magdalene and the disciples.

My mother’s memorial service was held the day before Easter, and we were gifted with tremendous music in her honor. She had been a music teacher at the local high school, and the school choirs were joined in performance by a community chorus and soloists. When a dear family friend and renowned Gospel singer filled the crowded church with the strains of “Rise Again,” the sound and message both reverberated through the air:

’Cause I’ll rise again.
Ain’t no power on earth can tie me down.
Yes I’ll rise again.
Death can’t keep me in the ground.

Yes, indeed, he had risen…and so, too, will we. I believed it then, in my moments of greatest loss, and I believe it still today.

God, thank you for the promises made real for us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

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