I was in the greeting card aisle at Walmart.
My dad was about to celebrate another year of life, and I was on the hunt for a birthday card. Thankfully, I found one quickly and bought it. I had other cards to purchase, only these were cards of sympathy for the loss of a father. I was struck with the irony of it all.
We face life and we face death, but in the middle of that, how do we live? A sign I once saw read: “Everyone dies, but not everyone lives.”
Jesus said in John 10, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” God wants us not only to live but also to live well!
The agony of the garden and the torture of Golgotha culminated with life in the graveyard. For the child of God, that Easter Sunday morning should make all the difference in how we live. It is because of that morning that we are enabled by God’s power to live abundant lives.
Consider three actions that relate to the Easter story which can aid us in living well.
The first action—I’ll call it Action step 1: Look up—is found in Mark 16. Look up. “When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.”
When I was a little girl, we raised turkeys to sell at Thanksgiving. One day we got a delivery of feed for the birds. The Agway driver asked for a drink of water and I was very eager to comply. I carefully made my way into the house, which was under construction. The walkway into the house was a wooden beam, which spanned the basement below. I got the tumbler of water and began running back to the barn, only I forgot that the floor was missing. I ran right off the edge and caught my arm on a nail on the way down.
Another incident involved racing down a snowy hill toward a road. I took off on my sled and sped quickly to the bottom, where I noticed the wheels of a car go zooming past, inches from my head.
Later in life, while driving, I was eating a candy bar when a piece fell onto my shirt. I looked down and retrieved the candy, then looked up just in time to whack into the back of the car ahead of me. That car in turn hit the car ahead of it. It was definitely not worth the Kit Kat!
How often do we “look down”? We face our own big stones, our own storms, our own struggles. And we, with the women of Mark 16, journey in trouble and trial as we walk toward what we think lies ahead. We carry our own loads of spices toward the tragedy of the tomb.
We look to ourselves, to our friends, maybe even to a book or to a pastor to help solve our dilemmas. All of these can be helpful, but should we not first look up and see God’s provision, look up and see God’s power, look up and experience the fulfillment of God’s promises?
The Psalmist, through the inspiration of God, put it this way in Psalm 121: “I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
Action step 2: Listen up.
Mary was weeping outside the tomb. You can read the account in John, chapter 20. Two people were there: Mary and someone she assumed was a gardener. She was grieving; he was gracious. She needed comfort; he knew her pain. She was in despair; he embodied hope. The risen Lord was in the garden with Mary. What a moment in time for both of them. She was in the presence of one who was about to change her sorrow into ecstasy. And, he did it with the mention of her name. One word from a “stranger” put purpose into her future and brought hope into the core of her being. Jesus called her name and it changed her life forever.
I remember hearing my grandpa call my name. It was Christmastime and the Keller clan was gathered in Lititz, Pa., at my grandparents’ home. Grandma and Grandpa were seated at the head of a large two-room area, and it was time for the white envelopes to be handed out. Inside were generous cash donations. Grandpa called out names one by one. The one called went forward to receive the gift. It is a memory that I hold dear, especially now that Grandpa is gone. Grandpa—saying my name!
We stand in the midst of our gardens where life sometimes doesn’t make sense, or where the journey seems hard. There are trials that test our faith. Turmoil and fear nag at our very souls. It is in those times that we need to listen for the words: “He is not here.” It is in those times that we need to hear God’s message “He is risen!” It is in those times that we need to listen closely for the voice of God calling our names.
Action step 3: Liven up.
Jesus commissioned Mary to go and to tell the good news, and she did, although it was no stroll in the park. Jesus gave Mary the opportunity to be one of the greatest missionaries of all time. I wonder how many times she told her story about Easter morning, how many times she reminisced about Jesus calling her by name, how many times she remembered her moments with God in the garden.
We marvel at the story of the manger, God’s gift in sending Jesus to earth. We stand in amazement at the grace extended at the cross. We rejoice in the power of an empty tomb. But our marvels, amazements, and rejoicings need not stay at the manger, the cross, and the tomb. In fact, God wants us to be God’s hands, feet, and voices in a world that desperately needs ligh
t for the lost, hope for the hurting, and faith for the fearful.
As we do this, we need to tell our own stories of what Jesus has done for us. As we go, we are called to tell those who walk in darkness about the light. We are commissioned to tell the broken and bruised of our society about the healer. We are chosen to tell those bent on destruction about the one who restores.
We have the opportunity to tell those at war that there is peace. We have good news for the lost soul, and can show the wanderer the way home.
Church, it is time to experience, in a deeper way, the power of the resurrection. Look up—and see your answer. Listen up— and hear your name. Liven up—and tell your story.
The tomb is empty! Let’s live like it!
Melody Keller lives in Wales, Maine, and is a member of the Lewiston (Maine) Church of the Brethren.