“Now the Green Blade Rises”
April 20, 2014
After the genuine springtime warmth of
yesterday and with the promise of more to come, does anybody still remember all
of those below zero mornings of recent months?
Of course we do.
But they are now only memories.
In spite of all the cold, in spite of all the
pain and sorrow we have borne in recent months, we made it through. And, yes,
some difficult memories are still very fresh; some pain very much with us even
But in God’s great mercy we are here together on this glorious Easter
morning. And we can be thankful for that.
Outside the front doors of our church
building the daffodils are sprouting once more. I saw them the first time this
past week and I remembered that wonderful Easter hymn, “Now the Green Blade
again, that with the dead has been,
Love is come
again like wheat that rises green.
The process theologian Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki tells us: “The depths of
God are joy, beauty, resurrection, and life.”[i]
So the beauty of spring informs our Easter joy; the life of spring tells us
something of Easter resurrection. And both spring and Easter will lead us into
the depths of God.
Spring is something of a holy symbol, a visual sign each year of an
ultimate reality: that life does conquer death; that our wintry hearts can
thaw; that God can bring something new out of barren circumstances. In these
days we stop and look—even the trees and ground are telling the good news of
God’s “Yes” to all creation.
As you know, our celebration of Easter is connected to the spring. And
the date for Easter changes from year to year because the date is the first
Sunday after the first full moon falling on or after the vernal equinox.
And just as both Easter and the arrival
of spring—real spring—cannot be pinned to any single day, Resurrection
cannot—and will not—be confined to any one season. Because there is no set
date, we are reminded each year that Resurrection can happen any time.
Resurrection happens anytime you
discover God’s power working in you to bring you out of death and into life.
When you discover the
grace to forgive, even though you’ve been hurt…
When you discover the
strength to live by your deepest values instead of selling out to the highest
When you discover the
hope that allows you to continue after disappointment or tragedy…
When you discover the
courage to stand up for yourself, for others, to seek justice, to do the right
thing rather than what’s convenient…
When you discover an
abundance moving you to unexpected generosity…
Resurrection is happening regardless of the time of
year or the day of the week.
happen at any time.
So while our celebration of Easter is connected to the spring, it is not
spring that we announce in the church. Especially this Sunday, but, really,
every Sunday of the year we proclaim the resurrection of Christ.
Easter speaks to us of something greater than spring. It tells us
something we want to hear, something
we need to hear, because it speaks to
us as adults who know the weariness, the pain, the profound loneliness, the
confusion, and the fear of living. As one person put it: “In the midst of our
desolation, we find the risen Christ, triumphant over death and still
shockingly alive, present to us in ways we cannot understand much less explain.
In Christ we find vibrancy of life and a firm compassion that does not deny our
suffering but transforms and illumines it.”[ii]
Resurrection invites us to look beyond the beauty of spring.
When Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph arrive at
the tomb, their sorrow and confusion are met with a simple message: “He is not
here; he has been raised.”
They come, Matthew tells us, simply to look at the tomb. They expect to
find a place of death, not life. Even so, we can see their arrival at the tomb
as an act of faith.
Faith that sustains does not overlook the harsh realities of our lives.
Life doesn’t always go as we would want it to go. Friends betray, relationships
collapse, children get ill. Violence is all too common.
Many people want to ignore the shadow side of life. Many of us would
skip over the events of Good Friday. But recognizing that we, too, walk in the
valley of deep darkness, we come closer to the power of the resurrection.
The words the women hear sink in and finally it dawns on them that they
are in the wrong place.
All the explanation
that the women get is “He is risen; he is not here.”
This is all the
Easter explanation we ever get as well. “He is risen…” We aren’t told how. We
aren’t told when. Nobody ever knew exactly what happened. Nobody was there to
see it. But it hardly matters how the body of Jesus came to be missing because
in the last analysis what convinced the people he had risen from the dead was
not the absence of his corpse but his living presence.
And that has been
the case ever since.
“He is risen; he is not here.”
Yes, it is easier to say and believe simply that spring has come again.
Resurrection tells us to look at the beautiful truth of spring—and then
to look beyond it to something greater.
Look at the tomb: Jesus is not there.
Now, listen to a new language—the language of possibility. Resurrection
begins, not with a body, but with a message of possibility.
We hear the good news: “Jesus has been raised from the dead and is
going on before you.”
Not where we once were
we now are
before us—farther down the road
might yet encounter the risen Christ.
Listen to the message. Let it speak to your heart.
The message is this: Christ lives on. If we seek him in the realm of
the dead we are told: “He is going on before you.”
We are invited to journey out of the predictable, dying world of anger,
resentment, and bitterness. We are invited to journey toward possibility,
miracle, and wonder, knowing that Christ is going on before us.
The cross speaks of God standing with us in the flux of events—and God
is a sure presence in difficult times.
The resurrection speaks of God's being always ahead of events and is
therefore the great ground of hope for the world, bringing forth the new and
the unexpected, transforming life in ways we might never imagine.
Christ is alive in the world, leading us with the good news of a new
power unleashed on the earth.
The risen Christ is always going ahead of us.
When we refuse to give in to evil,
When we will not give in to the cycle of violence,
When we seek to love one another,
then we discover that the risen Christ is always going
ahead of us.
The resurrection of Jesus means that each of our days is filled with
At every turn there is wonder and miracle if we live with our eyes
The women hear the resurrection message, run from the tomb, and find
Jesus standing in their path.
The two Marys, who were there when Jesus died on a cross, now confront the risen
Christ who says: “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see
me.” The sisters, or course were
already encountering the risen Christ.
In their age, the testimony of women
wasn’t even allowed in a court.
And yet, here are women, the first to see the risen Christ, sent as
the first to bring good news to
others. The women are witnesses to the resurrection. They are apostles equal to the men in their
experience and their calling.
They go with a message that Jesus will
be found in unexpected places, among unexpected people.
Jesus is not in the tomb where they put
him. God is not confined in the places where we try to put God. The celebration
of Easter is never meant to be merely the celebration that we are Easter people, as if the circle drawn around us sets the
limits of God’s purposes and God’s concerns.
Easter welcomes outsiders. It announces
to everyone standing out on the edges of life that God’s love is for them as
Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning, not the culmination of the
Christian hope. The victory of Easter is not yet complete, but it is promised.
The edges of God show much that is tragic. We cannot be callous toward
the suffering around us. Our response to a world in pain is neither a flippant
optimism that things must be fine if Christ is risen nor a dejected pessimism
that evil has been victorious.
The hope of the resurrection is the hope that Christ is the first of
many, the hope that God is still at work in us and through us transforming the
world, bringing life out of death.
Our task is to carry that hope into the world.[iii]
Always he goes ahead of us; we never know where or when we shall see
him; we only know we cannot escape him.[iv]
Resurrection answers crucifixion.
Life answers death.
This is the good news we find in the first and fading beauty of spring.
And in the unfading promise of God’s new creation we find the lasting
joy of Easter.
Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, God, Christ,
Church: A Practical Approach to Process Theology, quoted in Bearing Our Sorrows, pg. 166.
[iii] See discussion by Mary Ann Tolbert in her
commentary on Mark in The Women's Bible Commentary, 1992, Westminster
Press, pg. 274.
[iv] See Lamar Williamson, Mark, Interpretation