Easter is Over, or Is It?

It is days like these when we are physically exhausted and emotionally dissipated by pain or loss that we wonder in silence, where is resurrection power a week after Easter.  This weekend has been a test of our spirits at FUMC, Irving.  We have lost three people from our family, two people much too young.  My family has faced personal trials, which I will share later in the message.  But, our hearts are heavy from these events.

The supposed text for the morning was to be the Doubting Thomas story.  We were going to talk about how our faith is strengthened even by our doubts if we keep our heads up.  However, my spirit was drawn to some of the best words of comfort found anywhere in our Holy Writ, Isaiah 40 as I have experienced these last few days.  I was particularly drawn to those words at the end of the chapter, which point out the different ways resurrection power manifests itself in any and every circumstance in life. 

The key to knowing the power of the Risen Christ in every moment is learning to accept what God gives rather than demanding what we desire.  Disappointment is born when we decide ahead of time what is to happen; making the mistake of causing God to over-promise what God does.  This is a surefire way to disillusionment.  God’s help comes with different gifts for different moments.  Trusting in God’s adequacy and accepting what God offers is the key.  It is easy to say God helps in times of need; it is harder to distinguish the manner which help is provided.

First, there are times when we experience resurrection power as moments of ecstasy.  This is what Isaiah means by, “mounting up like wings of eagles”.  This is the experience of exuberance.  It is present from the very beginning because it can be found in the very nature God.  God looked at what was created and thought it was so good that God day off to celebrate the wonder of it all.  We experience this kind of ecstasy when we are caught up in the joy of creativity that is seated in the “child within us”.

First United Methodist, Irving has known many times of ecstasy throughout her life.  If we took a handheld microphone out into the congregation many people could tell stories of ecstasy that would be endless.  In my short tenure, I recall the joy of gathering food for Irving Cares, the warmth of the 11:00 p.m. service on Christmas Eve, the delight of offering hospitality and ashes at the train station to new friends, and celebrating Christ’s resurrection in a grand way.  We will continue to celebrate a great many joys together as pastor and people, such as the Wilcox’s 70th anniversary.

This isn’t the only way God gives strength; and woe to any person who absolutizes this form of God’s help saying, “If there is no ecstasy, God is not with us.”  This is a formula for disillusionment.  There is a moment when that is totally inappropriate.

There are times when we experience the power of God’s energy through activism.  Isaiah meant this saying “we run and not grow weary”.  Inspiration to rise to a challenge is an authentic experience of God.  The thyroid of the human spirit motivates women and men to heroic, problem-solving activity.  If we will look at history, we see schools, hospitals and other institutions born of individuals with an active impulse.

Anna Kirkland lived with great energy and activism she learned from birth.  Anna was the only child of Adolph and Elise Walker, both of whom served this church.  Anna had one son, Sean, born with cystic fibrosis.  He lived a full life until his body wore out at age 23.  When his father left after he was born, Anna pressed on with energy that could only come from above.  Anna was an art teacher at MacArthur High was always available.  Anna left a mark wherever she went because she was a person who knew strength from within to run and not grow weary.

I am sure the Ditterline family can give testimony to this reality as God provided them with the energy this church needed during their season of service to Christ’s church.  The gift of running without growing weary comes with having a purpose that sees beyond the horizon; not getting bogged down in the messy times of life.  The energy for activism is only one way we experience the resurrection power of heaven.  But, it is not the totality of divine experience for there are times when activism cannot change a thing.

There’s another way we experience the power and provision of God’s resurrection power.  God comes at times of trouble to give the gift of endurance.  This what Isaiah meant when he wrote: “we will walk and not faint”.  This may look like the least of these three forms of divine strength.  When we have “to keep on keeping on” while being surrounded by immensities we cannot change and there is no occasion for ecstasy or activism; endurance is not only significant gift, it is God’s best gift.

Temptation is acute when we experience difficult moments.  Sometimes, when we are up against it, we’re tempted to be more than we are-helpless, finite creatures.  This is the temptation of presumption; I can handle what comes my way.  The other temptation is to sink into despair; giving up and with a sigh of resignation exclaim, “Stop the world; I want to get off“.  These are real temptations that come to us in these kinds of situations.  In times such as these we can know a climactic form of God’s resurrection power.  When nothing else is possible, the strength to endure is given.

I sat with Bonnie Jones and Gary’s family yesterday as the impact of losing a man much too young sunk in throughout the entire family.  Gary’s dad, Norman and his sister Debby’s grief was apparent as they did not know what to say.  Reality regarding our own mortality shouts back at us when we experience the loss of a person 58 years old.  I did my best to assure them you and I will walk with them during these days of grief.  We will offer them outward gifts love, support, kindness, prayers, advice, etc.  These are needed gifts, but we cannot offer the best gift that comes from within.  God’s best manifestation of resurrection power is God’s enduring grace; providing what we need in dealing with our pain or loss.

Our son, Blake, was in a serious car accident early Saturday morning.  Your expressions of concern have been very much appreciated.  Terri is inTexarkanawith him and we are very confident the doctors are treating his injuries and he will recover, though the road will be long.  The longer road ahead of him is spiritual, as he must come to terms with his alcohol addiction.  We have provided for him throughout this battle and we will continue to provide him the support he needs to overcome.  Yet, he continues to make choices that allow that beast to defeat him.  There are limits to what we can humanly do for him until he is ready to receive God’s gift of endurance he will need to make it through recovery.  Terri and I covet your prayers that his heart will be opened to God’s gifts endurance, so he will not only recover from his injuries from the accident, but his wounds that drive his addiction.

My mother was with us Easter Sunday.  I shared a picture with you that may have gotten me removed from the will.  I also shared with you how we were celebrating clear scans after a long six year battle with cancer.  She can tell stories of God’s enduring grace throughout her courageous battle.  She had an episode on Thursday of unbalance and confusion.  I took her for an MRI on Friday and we await that report.  It was good to celebrate her 80th birthday yesterday at her church with family and friend from every stage of life.  However, haunting her and us is the outcome of Friday’s tests.  Yet, she remains a testimony of God’s certain help that raised her up, even when she feel hemmed in on all sides by her cancer.  God’s enduring grace not only sustained her in those days, it will do so in the days before her and us.  This may not be the only way God comes to us, but God’s resurrecting power may be the most appropriate way.

We have heard people hollowly declare that if we simply lift up our eyes and turn to God, every darkness will be caught up in light and we will soar above our difficulties as if they don’t exist.  The life of faith is not about God giving one ecstatic experience after another.  The journey of trust in a God who gives us what we need for the moment is not about a God  coming to us with practical suggestions how we can muster up enough energy to do good.  Life is about learning how God gives what we need when we need it.  There will be times when the gift of endurance is just what we need to walk the present road we travel.  Cherish this gift in these days of loss and grief. 

God still sends the Risen Son to our upper rooms like that first Easter evening to give what is needed.  This happens in our varied worlds and in each of our lives, in whatever moment we face.  God shows up with real resurrection power.  At those times when that power is just enough to get us through the next moment, that is not only just what we need, but it is everything we need.


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks Russell, I am devastated as are my friends. We are numb, my usual role as encourager and comforter falls short. Church was so somber today all I can do is pray that indeed God does hold us in the palm of his hand.

  2. Russell, words won’t begin to explain my sorrow for what you and Terri are going thru, I have walked that road and know it’s difficulty. I will certainly keep your family in my prayers!

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