Jessica Bratt is away today. We welcome Paul Janssen as a guest blogger. Thanks, Paul.
Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now. The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move,
The thunder is the thunder of the floes,
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.
Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere,
Never to leave us till we take
The longest stride of soul men ever took.
Affairs are now soul size.
Is exploration into God.
Dark and cold we certainly have been this winter, but, well, Easter.
Creation sings the good news of Easter. The green blade rises, the daffodils pop, and every so often the forsythia garb themselves goldenly on Easter morning and the upstart spring declares our maker’s praise. The earth itself tells out the good news of resurrection; a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies but comes to life and bears much fruit. “Behold,” says Isaiah on God’s behalf, “I create new heavens…and a new earth.” Another prophet sings back the song: No longer will there be infants who live but a few days. And old folks will fill out their days, and people will live in the houses they built themselves, and eat fruit from vineyards they themselves planted. All the images—and there are countless others—remind us that Easter begins as a word about life here and now, not someday in the great beyond.
And it works its way in. The risen Christ draws nearer in echoes of resurrection in human society. Remember the stories: in a radically sexist time, women were the first to be named apostles of the new creation. When the new community of Christ gathered, they decided to forgo individual ownership: they held all things in common. In social terms, Easter nets out to seeing “no one from a merely human point of view”…because “in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek; neither slave nor free; there is no male and female; you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Whenever, wherever people break free from the oppressive and violent rule of customs designed to keep some at the top and others at the bottom, we see signs of Easter taking root. (Easter is upside-down as well as outside-in, but that’s another column.)
And Easter does penetrate to the heart. Easter is also a soul-size affair. Because Christ lives, nothing can separate us from the love of God; the tether binding us to eternal Love may be stretched thin, but never to the breaking point. “I am with you always, to the close of the age,” says the risen Jesus. When you lie in hospital bed and the family’s gone home for the night, “I am with you.” As you pace the police station floor, waiting for your son to be released: “I am with you.” Sitting with a co-worker whose job will be terminated due to necessary cutbacks: “I am with you.” And in the end, yes, “I am with you” through the valley of the shadow of death.
Easter outside in proclaims that the world has been reborn, that God indeed holds the whole world in God’s hands, and that love lives on, in tree and flower and ladybug, that love lives on in astounding, barrier-breaking new relationships, that love lives on in your heart and in mine.
Are we there yet? Of course not. Wrong comes up to face us everywhere. But the sun’s up; the dawn has come; and it is time to take that long stride from darkness into light. And because the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ—because Christ is risen indeed–all of our stumbling steps, and all our journeys from this day on, all of life is so transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit that every foot fall is a soul stride, into the waiting arms of our loving God.
Paul Janssen the pastor of the United Reformed Church in Somerville, New Jersey.