An Easter Story

April 4, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

As I get older, I sometimes surprise myself with what I find enjoyable. When I was a kid, I loved to play sports, eat bologna sandwiches with ketchup, play Strato-Matic-Baseball (the greatest board game ever invented), and dive on the ground a lot (usually trying to catch some sort of ball or some kind of wrestling). Now, I like to watch sports, I haven’t eaten bologna in who knows how many years, I play Madden NFL 2007 on my son’s Game Cube, and I occasionally fall on the ground (but this is never on purpose… and it takes me longer to get up… and I feel the pain a lot longer).

I also find that I enjoy sitting more than I ever did as a kid. I remember family gatherings when I couldn’t understand how the parents could just sit and talk for hours. In my mind these times were made for whiffle ball, kick the can and flashlight tag. Why would anyone pass up these endeavors to sit… and… talk? I’ll never do that, I thought.

Now I find myself telling my kids, Dad will play in a little while, he just needs to sit for a minute. And that’s what I do. I sit.

I say all that to tell you this Easter story. It came to me as I was doing another thing I never understood as a kid– or participated in: I was looking at the flowers. More specifically, I was looking at the budding and blossoming trees of south east Virgina. Two weekends ago it happened. The trees burst forth in incredible splendor. Flowering pears, dogwoods, cherry, some delicate purple tree, forsithias ( I may not even know the correct names– but the fact that I sound like I do is amazing in itself). White, yellow, purple, pink– and varying shades of each of these. Vibrant, soft, beautiful, alive.

After living in Florida for over 25 years, I had forgotten the beauty and freshness of spring. And this year– for some reason– it is as if I am seeing it for the first time.

As I was running this morning (sounds really impressive– but it’s more like “a labored lumbering” than “running), I was really taking in all the natural beauty around me and I began thinking of the spiritual significance of this week. It’s called Holy Week in the church calendar, and it culminates in the celebration of Easter– the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This weekend churches all over the world will remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. They will read the stories from the gospel accounts. They will reverently remember and celebrate.

It’s good and right to read the scripture of these accounts. But this morning I was reminded that God communicates in more ways than just His Word.

Paul said this in Romans 1:

“…since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities– his eternal power and divine nature– have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

Basically Paul is saying that everyone knows that God exists because they see his creation. For a long time I have kinda rushed by this verse because I already believe in God, so this is not an issue for me. But this morning, I began to wonder about what God is saying to me in the beauty that captures my heart and mind and soul as I ponder his creation.

Here are a few musings that I came up with:

1) God is pretty darn creative. The variety of colors and textures and sizes and smells in blossoming trees is magnificent. Running down a country road is a multi-sensory worship extravaganza!

2) God is delightful. He didn’t have to make trees work like they do. But he decided that he would allow them to get there leaves through blossoms. It’s as if he wanted to give us a couple of weeks to shrug off the bleakness of winter and burst into warmth and fullness of spring.

3) God is generous. He does this for us. He did this for me. For my run this morning, God created a gallery of art for my viewing pleasure. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to. Why? Because he loves us. It’s that simple.

4) God is in the details. There is something kinda cool about the fact that these trees look this way for only a couple of weeks (the flowering pear trees are already almost “turned”). To God the moment of splendor is just as important as an eternity of splendor.

5) God is not just a master artist, he is also a master storyteller. The beauty of creation doesn’t just say “THERE IS A GOD”; it also tells us about who he is.

Here’s what I mean… Last month, I left Virginia Beach at 9:00 am on Friday, March 23 and attended a Men’s Retreat an hour and a half up the Eastern Shore. When I returned on Sunday, March 25 at about 1:30 pm, the trees had blossomed. The change was so dramatic I actually noticed it. It was like my neighborhood had undergone a “Complete Make-Over: Divine Edition”. When I left the trees were lifeless and barren. When I returned, they had been transformed– they were vibrant and alive. In just three days…

Three days… That’s all it took for something dead to be made alive (I understand that the trees weren’t actually dead— but hang with the imagery… I believe God really likes imagery when telling his story). Three days for the cold, dark, hopeless winter to change into a warm, bright, hopefilled spring… Three days.

Sound familiar? Ring a bell? Could it be that we see God’s redemption story played out in his creation every year (Spring) at about the same time we remember our redemption from sin and death (Easter)? Could it be that every dogwood, flowering pear, and cherry tree is actually blossoming and blooming out an eternal message of God’s great love and forgiveness and faithfulness?

Jesus is Lord! Blessed is the King! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!

I think so. And the reason I do is because Jesus said so. When he entered Jerusalem on what we call “Palm Sunday” the crowds welcomed him with praise and worship. They hailed their king… But the religious leaders didn’t like that very much and they asked Jesus to tell them to settle down. Here’s what Jesus said:

I tell you, if they keep quiet the stones will cry out.

Praise for the risen Jesus rings out every day… Stones, trees, flowers, grass… The Easter Story is played out all around us.

Look at a dogwood and join the celebration.

Grace and peace,

Doug

PS– Some may argue that the Easter holiday coincides with Spring because the early church borrowed from pagan harvest rituals that pre-dated Christianity and Judaism. I guess my response to that is this: God pre-dates the pagans who made harvest rituals that were based on God’s design anyway. It’s HIS STORY regardless.

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