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Oak Creek Community UMC
Holy Week Services:
Holy Thursday - April 17th - Worship and Communion Service at 7:00pm
Good Friday - April 18th - Tenebrae Service at 7:00pm
Easter Sunday - April 20th - Services of Celebration at 8:00am and 10:45am
Musings and Meanderings...
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- Romans 8:35, 37-39
During Easter season, advertisements, cards, and store displays are filled with spring flowers, eggs, bunnies (and candy). Their theme is about new life and fertility. The bursting open of bulbs and buds and blossoms (and bunnies) reminds us of new life, of the Easter resurrection of Jesus.
Contrary to this prevailing theme for Easter, I want to spend some time talking about death. The new life of Easter didn’t happen without Jesus’ death behind it, and without Jesus’ life behind that. In every death, there is a birth; conversely, in every birth, there is also a death. We so want to experience birth and life that we gloss over death. We are often so afraid of death that we ignore the deaths in nature, or in our lives. We focus instead on growth and new life. We avoid thinking about death and therefore don’t readily see or experience the new life inherent in the death. This leaves us unprepared and in shock when we encounter death. To us, death seems a violation and negation of life. Yet our natural world teaches us that death is the fulfillment of life, whenever and however it comes. We can’t have life without death.
A seed has to break open and “die” in order for it to grow–it loses its “seed-self” for it to become a “plant-self.” A bud has to die in order to blossom; the flower dies in order to become a seed. And on goes the cycle. Of course, there are times the seed gets eaten by some critter. Some seeds never grow, some plants don’t blossom and some blossoms don’t develop seeds. These “die” before they have matured and they merely become part of the nutrients of the soil.
Each birth or form of new life also includes a death or loss of the old form; each death or loss gives way to birth and new forms of life. We cannot have one without the other. Even when the seed gets eaten, or if it decomposes in the ground and never grows, these deaths as well become opportunities for life.
The same is true for us as humans. Each time we are given new life, we also experience death–even if it’s only to the old way of being. Each time we experience death, we are given opportunities for new life–sometimes (often?) not evident to us, yet the new life is still there. Each day we are alive is both a gift of new life, and one more step toward the inevitability of death. In the end (in the death) of each day, we are given the wondrous opportunities of life to come in the next day. Death doesn’t come without life; life doesn’t come without death.
This is the message of Easter: death and life are inseparably intertwined. And God is present with us, always leading us from life into death, into life again.
Jesus lived as a witness to the powerful, abundant, generous, lavish, healing, compassionate love of God. Jesus died to show us that God’s love is stronger, deeper, higher, wider, longer, broader than the limits of life on this earth, and that God’s love extends even into and through death. Jesus as the risen Christ teaches us that in God, life is stronger than death–that death is one more new beginning of life in God’s love. Both life and death are gifts of God. Easter teaches us that in God, life is stronger. Out of the struggle and turmoil of each death we experience in life, God gives us new opportunities, new hope, new love, new promise, new faith, new life again and again and again.