Today, I went out at dawn to look for my Lord. Alone. Searching for meaning on this Easter Sunday morning that is so different from other Easter mornings. I wondered whether Mary felt some of the same feelings on that Easter morning so long ago. How to make sense of the present. How to put it in context with all I know and have known. How to share a word of comfort… a word of meaning… a word of hope for those who look to me for leadership.
I walked much slower than I usually do – as I usually walk for exercise at a rather brisk pace. This time, I searched familiar sights for something new… or something I could see in a new light. The prayer on my heart simply repeated itself in a mantra that matched the slow march of my feet over the pavement. I almost missed it. I stopped and went back… and took this photograph to share with you.
They are eggs… Easter eggs, if you will, since I saw them on Easter Sunday. But inside the shells (which are not brightly colored this year), there are no yolks… no whites… no fluffy baby chicks. Instead, they have been filled with dark, rich dirt and seeds that are now germinating… emerging from the soil with their tiny little leaves reaching for the sunlight. I never expected to see tiny plants emerging from egg shells… and that is the message of hope I want to share with you.
18 Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
We are living in a time that demands that the way in which you and I have always worshiped God must change. But we are not the first to live in such a time. Think back to when the Jews worshiped God in the Temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem. That Temple was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.E. The Jews were forced to find new ways to worship God… in exile… in captivity. While the Temple was later rebuilt, it was destroyed again in 70 C.E. by the Romans, and the Jews and early Christians were scattered by religious persecution. Again, they needed to find new ways to worship God that were not tied to a place built by human hands.
There are two other significant groups I want to mention who had to find new ways to worship (and I sure there are many more). The Christians pilgrims, who traveled to the New World to escape religious persecution in their motherland, did not arrive to find houses of worship ready and waiting for them. They had to build their own and, while many were fashioned after houses of worship they had known, they used means and materials available to them in this new setting… this wilderness… much as the children of Israel did in their forty years of wandering in the desert. In the same way, missionaries, who have traveled to foreign lands to share the Gospel message and the news of God’s great love with others, have adapted the way they worshiped to new and strange realities.
Today, worship does not look like it did just a few weeks ago. It is something new… something different… not what we expect. But, in all of the harsh and dramatic ways that the worship of God has changed, what has not changed is the message of Holy Week and Easter! Our God loves us with a love that is beyond our comprehension, and THAT love cannot be defeated by death. In all of the disasters… persecutions… plagues… that have come upon God’s people in the past, nothing has been able to stop this amazing message from reaching people and transforming them. And, even though this new plague threatens to completely change the way in which we worship and do ministry in the future, nothing will stop this message from continuing to reach and transform people in the future.
So, what do we do now? On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus met a blind beggar. He asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus replied, “Rabbi, I want to see!” I, too, want to see… with new eyes. And I pray that, this Easter, God will give all of us new sight – a way of seeing that is given by God. For, despite all the challenges of this day, the message remains the same: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.