I love this time of year in Oregon. The flowers are blooming and have been for a good month—crocus and daffodils, narcissus and hyacinths, now tulips. I love coming home to white and red and pink tulips blooming; our rhododendrons are starting to flower. Whether the day is cold and rainy or warm and sunny, it doesn’t matter so much because with the flowers blooming, I know that spring has come. It also makes me glad to live in Oregon. Where I came from had snow this past week and the flowers won’t bloom for three more weeks. When I came here in February five years ago to interview, I was quite impressed that the daffodils were blooming. It made me want to move to Oregon.
“Early last spring, I was planting my garden,” author Bob Benson wrote explaining that it was late in the evening and he had plans to leave the following morning on an extended trip. He had to hurry to finish before darkness fell. He ran out of sticks and labels to mark the rows. “I was about to retrieve some more when I suddenly wondered what the purpose of labels was anyway. By the time I return the plants will be up and I could see whether or not they were growing. I could identify the plants from prior experience and certainly the seeds know what they are. Who needs labels! ” Bob simply covered the seeds with the moist earth and gently patted the beds and said, “Go ahead and sprout. You know who you are.”
God knows who we are and what we were made to be. God knows what we will become. We sing a song here at Central that I had never heard before I came but have grown to treasure:
In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise; butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
God can see the world as it was created to be and as it will be in the New Creation. We often do not. When I look into the mirror, I wonder who this old guy is; where did all this gray hair come from! This week I opened a letter and found it addressed, “Dear Senior Citizen.” The gist of the mailing was to pre-pay your funeral. Oh my! When I look into the mirror and the mirror of my soul I wonder have I been all that I could have been, I wondered if I had become what I was intended to be?
Hamlet may have said:
“What a piece of work is man,
how noble in reason,
how infinite in faculties,
in form and moving how express and admirable,
in action how like an angel.”
And the Psalmist,
“Yet you have made human beings a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.”
We are God’s good creation and we praise God for the gifts we have received, our selves, our time and our possessions.
Yet the Psalmist could also write,
“You sweep mortals away;
they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning;
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers…
our days pass away under your wrath;
our years come to an end like a sigh.”
We may be little lower than the angels but we only live our threescore years and ten—seventy years—or by reason of strength, fourscore—eighty years. We won’t live forever and many will not even make their seventieth year. Many marriages will fail, children will not turn out as the parents desired, many will have financial difficulties and be insecure in their old age. Many will look back on their lives and wonder if their lives had any meaning and purpose.
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A great Sultan asked his Grand Scribe to compile a history of the human race. After years of toil, according to this old story, the Scribe came to the Sultan with a caravan of donkeys carrying 500 volumes. The Sultan was displeased. He told his Scribe: “Condense it! Shorten it! Cut it down!” Replied the Scribe, “Sir, all of these volumes can be reduced to a single sentence that tells the story of the whole human race—they were born, they suffered and they died.”
Human wisdom teaches us that we should use our time wisely. This past week on a morning television program, New Yorkers were interviewed as to what they would do if their life was coming to an end. Of course there were the comments, “I’d go to Paris,” but more were realistic and said they would be with their families.
Yes, there are places we would like to go and things we would like to do, but the most important things are family and friends, the people who mean so much to us. We would like to tell them we love them, ask forgiveness for the wrongs we have done and the hurtful things we have said. The Psalmist tells us that we should “number our days that we might apply our hearts unto wisdom” and part of that wisdom is loving people. It is being the best friend that we can be, the best father, the best wife, the kindest person. It is making amends when we can, putting aside the grudges we may carry. It means living every day as if it were our last, acting as if our minutes and hours really counted and will be accounted for.
Divine wisdom teaches us that much of what we find so important is really vanity of vanities. As Jesus told of the rich man who had built new barns, “Tonight thy soul is required of thee.”
Scripture also tells us that God’s gift is not just this life, this world, this time but there is more in store for us. The Bible teaches that this life is not all there is. Whatever mistakes we have made and actions that we regret, we get a second chance. We can confess our sins and be forgiven. We can claim the strength and presence of God as we live each day. We can have hope that beyond this life, there is new and everlasting life.
That is the message of Easter. Jesus suffered and died on a cross and was buried and on the third day rose again. But the good news is not the miracle that a man lived two thousand years ago and died and then came back to life—that is an amazing thing indeed, but the Gospel is that we who believe will also have eternal life. Jesus is the firstborn of the dead. His resurrection will also be ours. We will have new and unending life through Christ. As St. Paul reminds us,
“If for this life only, we hoped in Christ,
we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
Christ has been raised from the dead to show us God’s victory over sin, death and the powers of evil. Christ has been raised to show that at the resurrection we will still be ourselves with all our experiences, with our joys and sorrows. Jesus returned to His disciples showing His wounds to his friends. Our wounds, our memories, our connection with our loved ones, will still be there. We will bring into eternal life just who we are but now without sin.
Our wounds will be transformed into marks of our victory as we join our friends and family before the throne of God. We will enter into a house of many mansions with room enough for all people. There will be no more tears, suffering, shame in God’s Kingdom. The promise of all these wonderful things is yours today. Hope in Christ. Know that you are a bulb and a seed and someday you will be a flower or a tree—just what God wants you to be. God already knows you and loves you and redeems you. God sees you not just as you are but as God made you to be. Believe the promises of God—they are for you.
The hymn of promise ends:
In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing ; in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
CHRIST IS RISEN ! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!