Pastoral Ponderings . . .

On the afternoon of May 12, 2008 a massive earthquake hit Western China and killed over 70,000 people.  Survivors rushed back to what was left of their homes, looking for family members. One parent rushed over to the school where their son had been, only to find a flattened pile of rubble. Who could have survived that crushing weight? They calculated where in the rubble their son’s classroom had been, and began to dig. Other parents were digging too.  They cried out to their children in desperate hope. Hours passed, and their hopes faded. One person, then another, tried to pull the parent  off the rubble, saying “It’s time to go home.” But to every well-meaning neighbor,  the parent would only say, “Are you going to help me now?”And they continued to dig.  The local fire chief came, then the police.  Each one tried to convince them to give up.  But to each one the parent simply said, “Are you going to help me now?” In their thirty-eighth hour of digging, they pulled back a slab of concrete and heard their son’s voice.    They called out their son’s name. The boy called back,“I knew you would come.”                                                                                                  

The promise that God makes to us in our baptism is that nothing will ever separate us from Their love. And God’s love never stops digging through our layers of pain and hurt,   suffering and loss to uncover a future of hope. There are so many ways that hopes and dreams can come down around us: a loved one who dies too young; leaving home for new horizons, but having to come back; a marriage that ends; a pregnancy lost to miscarriage. It can feel like an earthquake hit us. What seemed reliable and sure before, now isn’t. What are we to do when life comes down around us like that?                                                                                                  

Earthquakes seem to be everywhere in Matthew’s Easter story. He says when Jesus breathed his last, “the earth shook, and the rocks were split.” And then on the third day, Matthew says “there was a great earthquake as an angel rolled back the stone and sat on it.” To me it’s like these two incredible events: the death of God’s child, and the resurrection of God’s child shake the foundations of human reality. How can the eternal Creator die a human death? And how can death be “swallowed up by life itself”?   

I think the good news of Easter is meant to shake us up. Shake up our rational and reasonable perception of life. The way we think things really are.  Don’t we think A + B always = C? When hopes and dreams and life as we knew it come crashing down around our ears, isn’t that End of Story? To me that’s what the earthquake of Good Friday symbolizes: the end of trust, the end of faith, even the end of God. But now the earthquake of Easter morning tells us that’s not the end. It turns out that God really is God.  The mystery that defies reason. Because ever since our own Good Friday, God’s love has never stopped digging, until with another mighty upheaval the last hopeless stone is heaved off our shoulders as only the Creator can do, and the light of day comes streaming in again.  The end becomes the beginning of a resurrected life.   

The powers of Good Friday do their worst. The earthquake destroys the reality we once knew. The powers of Good Friday have buried our Prince of Peace under rubble. But on the third day Mary Magdalene and Mary go to see the rubble; and because they went they are the first to witness that every ending can be a new beginning. Good Friday doesn’t have the last word because God’s love never stops digging for us. And the words of the Risen Christ become the ones we trust: “Do not be afraid.” “I am going ahead of you.” “There you will see me.”          -- Pastor David