Empty on Easter
It was nearly two years ago now. We had hoped that the surging threat of what we were all learning was a never-before-seen strand of a coronavirus would have subsided by Easter. But alas, I tied my shoelaces and set out for a 9:30 a.m. run through our neighborhood. And the threat had very much not subsided. And our Easter celebrations at all of our campuses had been relegated to online-only.
What do we do when the emptiness (and excitement) of Easter seem to be at odds with one another?
Singing Despite The Storm
I remember my run very well. Not only was it surreal to have already preached my Easter sermon (into a camera four days earlier), there was a thunderstorm on the horizon. I had to pick up the pace for the last mile. The skies grew darker, and the wind blew harder. I could not help but think about the coming storm as a metaphor for the storms in each of our lives as we embraced the absolute unknown that would ultimately become an over two-year-long pandemic.
I also could not help but notice the trees all around me as the storm inched closer. They were singing and dancing as the wind whipped through them.
As The Roots are Joined
I find trees fascinating. A few years back on a breezy day, I remember myself sitting on the porch of a retreat center. I was meditating and began watching—and listening to—the trees intently. It occurred to me that, maybe, they were talking to one another. Since then, I have learned there is a German scientist who believes they do talk to one another! But that day my experience was more spiritual than scientific.
I imagined the trees in relationship with one another. Their root systems conjoined beneath the topsoil. Their sharing of the rainwater that helps them all grow. And yes, perhaps they did communicate, somehow, with one another. In essence, they are a community made stronger by each others’ presence.
Our Witness to Bear
In his wonderful book God of the Garden, Andrew Peterson reminds us that trees “bear witness.” He says, “When it comes to doing the hard work of remembrance, we don’t have much to go on. Most of our memories up and vanish, and the time line of what we do remember is sure to get discombobulated as we age.” But trees are ageless.
They were here before us and will likely outlast us. Perhaps what they’re communicating with one another is the truth about God and His promises; while I will soon forget the details about my Easter Day run, God never forgets, and His promises are ageless as well. The emptiness (and excitement) of Easter reminds of us His promise to redeem and to restore the brokenness in our midst.
The Excitement of Easter
Then he showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the city’s main street. The tree of life was on each side of the river, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more; people will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will give them light, and they will reign forever and ever. —Revelation 22:1-5
In this passage, John helps his readers grasp the promises that God has in store for all who follow and are being formed by Jesus. I think we have much to learn from the trees all around us today. Perhaps when we recognize the gift of community that God has allowed for us today, even in our yet-to-be-fully-redeemed world, we can be more like the leaves of those trees. As war rages in Eastern Europe and this world’s economies show their frailty, will we be able to still produce fruit and provide healing for all who are hurting? These are the questions we ponder as we consider the emptiness (and excitement) of Easter…
Yet this is the story of Easter: Night is ultimately no more; all is being made new.