When we came back from Australia as a family in 1964, we took what seemed to be a wonderfully long time touring the eastern side of the country, and then we took an overnight ferry to Tasmania and drove all around that huge island. We then flew to Hawaii, where we spent probably two weeks, swimming in the ocean, and tasting orange sherbet for the first time. It was a great trip.
When we ended up in California, we stayed at Mather AFB, near Sacramento, which I guess is where Dad checked in with the Air Force. I had to look up the date, which was Sunday, March 29, when we woke up that morning in the VOQs (visiting officers’ quarters) which probably required three different rooms for the whole gang of us. Anyway, I remember waking up, and looking at the end of my bed, and there was a chocolate Easter bunny. Now, we didn’t dye eggs, and there was no egg hunt. We were basically in a military hotel, and so the “normal” fun things around Easter were suspended that year, but apparently the “Easter Bunny” decided that we probably should at least have a little chocolate bunny. 57 years later, it’s still nice to remember.
One of the sadder things I have noticed over the past number of years is the growing practice of children receiving “easter presents” – all sorts of toys and such – as part of their Easter basket. Somebody must be thinking that we need to turn Easter into “Christmas Lite” or something like that, and to further secularize the day by turning the Easter Bunny into a gift-giving behemoth. It’s sad, for me at least, because I have always cherished the Easter Day for what it is, far more than even any candy or goodies or eggs.
Even when I was a little child, to be able to read, “Early in the morning, while it was still dark…” and be caught up in the miracle of Jesus rising from the dead, after such a sad Good Friday, was a wonderfully joy-filled morning.
I remember, when we were living in South Carolina, that somehow it had been arranged that the sunrise service for the Protestants on base would be held on the flight line. Everyone parked their cars what seemed to be miles away, and walked across the wet, dewy grass in the dark, finally getting to the tarmac, where rows of chairs were set up. There we sat, in the dark, a bit cold even for South Carolina, waiting for the worship service to start.
As the sun came up that clear morning, we began to see the shape of a huge structure in front of us. As the sun went higher above the horizon, there was a large corporate inhale – not a gasp, but nearly an “ooh.” There in front of us stood a huge cross, covered in flowers, with the base Easter lilies seeming to trumpet the sight. I’m not sure anyone even needed to hear a sermon or do anything in worship that morning except see sight, and sit in awe of its beautiful picture.
There is something about being in a place just before dawn, and experiencing the sight of a new day beginning. It takes time for dawn to occur, and it’s much easier just to turn on a lamp. But when you are willing to wait, the view and experience reminds you so well of God’s incredible power of creating a new world each day.
So I always like to imagine, on that one day, so long ago, as the women came to the garden, to the tomb, and saw the stone rolled away, and the tomb empty, what they must have been feeling before they realized truly what had happened. In one of our Gospels, it took Mary to actually talk with Jesus, an to hear his voice speaking her name, to realize that not only had the sun risen, but that day, the Son rose as well, and with that resurrection came a new world, a new hope, and a new powerful understanding that not only does God create, but God also brings salvation to our world through God’s son – through Jesus. For me, all the other stories we find in the Bible, great though they are, have always been second – even Christmas – to the incredible truth and beauty of a Sonrise.
So, what will you do on this first day of week? Knowing what you know now, of the Risen Christ, how will you let that affect your words, your actions, your very emotional and mental approach to our world? CoVid, while appearing in many places to be on the run, is still with us, and death is still part of our lives as humans. Beyond that, there seems to be a constant flavor and aroma of violence filling the air, far different than the smell of a lily. People in our world race quickly to being offended at nearly every turn, and mistrust, and greater division than ever makes this a sadder and more lonely and even more dangerous world.
Into this world, the Risen Christ steps from the tomb. Having experienced the worst violence ever to be done to a human, he rises, and greets the day, and ushers in something different. He offers the invitation to each of us to simply go and tell our brothers and sisters that he indeed in risen, and that changes everything we know, and everything we can choose to do in our lives.
So, set aside the stone that has been rolled in front of your tomb today. No matter what you have experienced in your life – it can be different. With the Sonrise, we each can see our world and our lives in a different light, and to know peace as the first choice, and love as the first power.
Happy Easter, my friend. En-joy this new day of your life.
Word for the day: oenomel. Pronounce EE-no-mel. It’s Latin, of course, and comes from two words, oeno, meaning “wine,” and mel, meaning “honey.” The word originally was used to describe a concoction of wine and honey – sort of a mead that folks would drink. Over the centuries, however, it moved from a beverage to something far more. It was used to describe anything that seemed to combine strength with sweetness in our lives. So, it could be a powerful memory, like seeing a cross at dawn, or maybe an idea, or a present experience. An oenomel is to be cherished, for we don’t have many things that take both of those life reactions, of sweetness and strength, and have them blend in our minds and hearts. I think when I saw Mom alive for the last time, and we said goodbye…
Find those oenomels in your life today.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.