As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’
Harper recently became my new Easter symbol, a butterfly and much more.
Blond, age six, with a gap-toothed grin, she made a chalk drawing of a butterfly—blue, pink and yellow. The drawing, six or seven feet wide, dwarfs her frame as she lies on it and stretches out her arms as if these are her wings.
They are, of course, yours, too, and losing myself in her grin I think I know what God has in mind for us.
Joy, for starters—joy that is the breath of the risen Christ animating our souls above the struggles and drab routines that drain vitality from our limbs. Yes, this, and the peace of knowing, as saints have told us, “All is well.”
And it is, for the Spirit of the resurrected one is breathed, poured abundantly into our hearts so that the mortal clay of our flesh grows bold and our spirits take flight. Our hearts reach out to embrace this life in all its beauty and banality, disappointments and anxieties, loving it all with that love that knows no limits, the love God is.
This joy, this affirmation of life is the gift of this day for every day. I know. Saint Harper tells me so.
—Pr. David L. Miller
Prayer: Breathe your abundant Spirit into us that we may live with joy and love beyond all fear.
To Ponder: Where does the Spirit of the Resurrection touch and lift you into new life? Give thanks for every experience of vitality and joy.
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus — though a secret one because he was afraid of the Jews — asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus. … Nicodemus came as well … and he brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, following the Jewish burial custom. At the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in this garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried. Since it was the Jewish Day of Preparation and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
Well, that is that. Close the book. The most remarkable life ever lived is finished. Over. Done. Time to go home and forget it ever happened.
Caiaphas returns home to celebrate Passover. Pilate stretches out on his couch and drinks more than usual, knowing he has executed an innocent man. But it wasn’t the first time. It needed to done, he tells himself.
Joseph of Arimathea and friends go to prepare the tomb, brush away the dust and lay out the spices and linens.
Fumbling with the dead weight of Jesus’ body, they wrap him in strips of cloth—his feet and legs, hands and side, chest and shoulders, until, finally, his face … the face they loved even if they seldom understood him.
They carry out their heartbreaking work and lay their hopes to rest, burying the yearning they felt whenever they heard his voice.
All is quiet now. The crowds have dispersed. Public order is restored. The ancient lust for the blood has been satisfied.
Now is the hour of regret and sorrow, of whispers in the silence and echoes of what might have been. That’s all we have.
But that is not all God has. God has more. God is always more, more love, more life. Jesus trusted that more all the way to the cross.
And so we wait, trusting the One who is all life and all love because Sunday’s coming. The gloom of despair will be lit with the light of everlasting morning. The garden of sorrow will bloom with the fragrance of eternity.
Because God is more. Always.
—Pr. David L. Miller
Prayer: Prayer: Help us to wait in faith for the light or resurrection, O Lord, during this day of darkness.
To Ponder: To ponder: Imagine what the first disciples felt as they laid their hopes to rest.
Mark 15: 33-35, 37
When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ … Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
Hold me to it
A black Jesus drew me into to a side chapel in the great Gothic cathedral in Barcelona, Spain, during my 2017 pilgrimage. I almost walked by, but the sight of him on the cross would not let me.
He was leprous and beaten, bearing the pangs of death as he hung before a half-dozen people praying among the spare wooden benches facing the crucifix.
I took my place among the benches and watched him. A great love for every suffering of every human soul whispered from the crucifix, “This love will never abandon you. This love will meet you everywhere you go. Look at me … and know. There is no place this love will not go for you.”
I sat and prayed—offering my unanswered questions, the wounds from which I ache to be healed, my regrets about the past and uncertainty about the future, most of all my craving to feel the joy of God’s love warming me through.
When words were done I walked to the back of the chapel but still couldn’t leave. Turing to the crucifix, I shook my finger at Jesus. “I’m holding you to this … this love,” I whispered. I’m holding you to this.”
“It’s okay,” came his reply. “That’s what I am for. Hold me to it.”
—Pr. David L. Miller
Prayer: May your passion and death lift us into love for everything you are and all you do that we might love as you.
To Ponder: What sorrow or pain do you have to offer to the crucified Jesus today?
John 13:1-14, 34-35
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Do the little things
If I had written this a month ago, I think my focus would have been different. Today, in the midst of this pandemic, verses 34-35 are of even greater importance. As we shelter in our homes, socially-distanced from friends and even family, it is easy to get a little paranoid from non-stop grim news and political backbiting.
For our own well-being, we need to spend more time thinking about the good that is happening. We can love one another in so many different ways right now, and there is evidence of that all around us.
Churches are looking outside the traditional box and reaching out by video, blogs and personal phone calls to help people stay connected. Even more importantly, neighbors are checking on each other and dropping off bags of food on porches.
We are talking and encouraging each other from across the street on daily walks. Many of my neighbors have written encouraging messages at the bottom of their driveways in sidewalk chalk.
Happy posters are appearing in windows. Neighborhoods are coming together by having residents go out on their front porches at a specific time once a week and cheering … for essential workers, for each other, for life.
Little things mean a lot these days, and it is a good time for us all to reflect on what we can do for one another, not just now but as life moves forward in the coming months.
My hope is that we will continue to be more accepting and less critical of each other, continue to make time for one another and continue to do the little things that mean so much to someone else.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help each of us follow Jesus’s commandment to love one another, day by day, as we know we are loved by you. May we show the world who we are by how we care for one another.
To Ponder: What little thing can you do today to let someone know they are loved?
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Have this mind
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who took human form and humbled himself in service and obedience to God, even to death on a cross.
Paul’s description of Christ’s humility talks both about his identity and his work. Jesus shows the path we should choose, following the Father’s will, not our own. How often do we look for direction or guidance in our everyday lives?
I was blessed to take a pilgrimage to Israel a few years ago. As we continue our journey through Holy Week, I reflect on this time with more meaning and connection having walked where Jesus walked, viewed the many places where he preached and performed miracles and stood near the Garden of Gethsemane where he prayed to his father to take the cup from him.
My faith and relationship with God has been forever changed. As we live in a very uncertain time, how do you view the choice Jesus made?
Prayer: Father, strengthen our faith and open our hearts to the choices you lead us to make. Help us follow the example of Jesus.
To Ponder: Do your prayers include “what is your plan for me,” or “how can I best serve you, Lord?”
Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
For much of the year, this verse is hard to understand. What does Jesus mean when he tells us that if we love our life we will lose it and vice versa?
But then come times when Jesus’s words make all the sense in the world. Well, friends, that time is now. And now is spring. All around us, day by day, this teaching of Jesus plays out in real time. Step outside. Look at the ground. Gaze through the branches of the trees. Listen to the birds sing. Smell the aroma of new life.
We live in a land that lays dead and dormant for half of the year. Leaves fall from the trees, grass withers and the flowers fade. During winter, I find it hard to even imagine what trees look like with leaves on. I see the bare branches and wonder if the leaves will ever return. Has death finally won? Will winter last forever? I’ve never lived in a climate that doesn’t experience this drastic seasonal change. And while I will not deny the allure of living in a land of always summer, I would miss this yearly reminder of the good news of Jesus Christ. The Good News that reminds us that death is not final.
For as surely as March turns to April, Jesus’ teachings are out in full display. Every year, Jesus reminds us not to hate the annual cycles of death, for we are always promised the abundant return of spring and new life.
Just yesterday, I had the screen door to my backyard open. For the first time this year, it felt as if life returned. This was my stone-rolled-away moment. As we journey through holy week, let us remember that even in the dark hours of Good Friday, spring is just around the corner. Look, just now I see a new flower bloom.
—Pr. Daniel Joyner Miller
Prayer: Dear Jesus, you are the bringer of life. In our darkest winters and most hopeless hours, may we never forget that you promise newness of life. We are grain; let us grow once more.
To Ponder: What are your stone-rolling-away moments this time of year? When and how do you see new life in your life and in the lives of those around you?