Death consumed by life

Apr 14, 2014 by

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There is a spark of God hidden within each one of us. For some the spark only smolders and smokes, layers of ash encasing the glowing ember. For others the spark is hard to see, for it has ignited flames of righteous passion and it is now masked by their burning.

Nafziger

Nafziger

The dawn of God’s New Day has come, yet the shadows of yesterday are still long upon our souls.

It is a temptation, in this Eas­ter season, to mistake the shadows for true darkness. This they are not. The shadows within us are rather evidence that a new day has come, for only light can create shadow.

It was dawn when the women approached the tomb. They came to it heavy-laden, as all of us do. They carried spices to weigh down their physical bodies. But more important, they carried enough grief to weigh down their broken hearts.

It is telling, that the first two emotions mentioned after the resurrection are terror and amazement (or wonder, depending on your translation). An encounter with the resurrection should leave us at once terrified and amazed, breathless at the prospect of an empty tomb.

Yet we would rather pass around bowls of candy than breathe the ember back to life inside us. We would rather feast with family than examine our souls. In so doing, we miss the point of Easter and betray our lack of faith.

The empty tomb is terrifying, for within it we are forced to confront the seeming absence of our Savior in our darkest hour. The women sought answers at the tomb. What they found was the ultimate question: “Why do you search for the living among the dead?”

The life, the death and the resurrection of Christ have established an alternative kingdom where death has been consumed by life. We enter this kingdom not through a tomb, not through special knowledge, not by a miraculous stroke of luck or good fortune. We can enter this kingdom only through repentance, as Hosea urges us: “Come, let us return to the Lord.”

Indeed, a new day has come. Easter redefines the lives of those who search for Jesus.

The story continues on the road to Emmaus. Two of his followers journey on the road, and as they do, they encounter a stranger.

Their hearts are heavy, and on the road they share their struggles with the inquisitive stranger. His response to their story comes across as something like a rebuke.

“How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” he says. “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”

And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

The message is clear. The story of God stretches as far back as it does forward. This new day has dawned, and it changes not only the future and the present. It also changes how we interpret the past.

This is good news, for it provides us a way to remain bound to our past without being bound by it. We are free to leave the tomb and walk in the light of this glorious new day.

Christ is revealed in the breaking of bread, but as soon as they recognize him, he is gone again.

Isn’t that still our experience?

We need each other on this journey away from the tomb. We need to help each other encounter the risen Christ, not just once but time and time again in the breaking of bread and in our questions.

For Christ is risen. Christ is risen, indeed!

Patrick Nafziger works alongside his wife, Christine, as co-pastor of Millersburg (Ohio) Mennonite Church.


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