When the Spirituality Committee asked for contributions to the “New Beginnings” bulletin board, one image I could have offered was The Cat in the Hat. Specifically, the last page of that book, when Things 1 and 2 have cleaned up the mess, the Cat has left, and the children’s mother is stepping through the door. The narrator ponders whether to tell his mother about the Cat’s visit, and the last lines ask the reader, “Well… / What would YOU do / If your mother asked YOU?” (Personally, I’ve never quite decided.) The story doesn’t quite end; it continues in the reader’s response to that question.

So it is with the stories of Holy Week and Easter. We move from the jubilant crowds of Palm Sunday, through the story of Jesus’ betrayal, suffering, and death, and only then into the surprising good news of Easter. The worship services of this week are supposed to have an unfinished quality to them, because the story isn’t over until the resurrection morning. In liturgical churches, the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services don’t conclude with a benediction, because the real conclusion is the celebration of the ultimate new beginning on Easter. Ultimately, the conclusion is in how we live after we’ve heard, sung, prayed, and tasted the stories.

What would we do if Easter happened to us? How would we live out the surprising, mysterious story of new life springing forth from the places of death in our world? What would we allow ourselves to try, believe, or imagine, if it were possible for goodness and love to triumph over the powers that push us toward hatred, self-protection, and isolation? How could the defunct stories come back to life for us?

It’s no mistake that we in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate Easter in the spring, when the plants that “died” last fall seem miraculously to come alive again. It may be a surprise just how much has sprouted already this year, but part of the reason we repeat the Easter story is that we know the story is present in the renewing life around us. It’s present in the bulbs that held last year’s sunlight in trust through the winter. It’s present in the smell of fresh air blowing in through an open window. It’s present in friendships restored after a separation, whether of a season or of years. It’s present in the way we put life together again in the wake of tragedy and heartbreak.

The story is present in us, in our response to “what would YOU do,” in the way we live out the hope of new life. The story of Easter is not complete until we – and all those who will come after us – have lived it out. Christ’s resurrection didn’t happen once and for all 2,000 years ago. It happened then as a sign that it happens forever, every day, in a hundred ways for each of us. The story about Jesus of Nazareth coming back to life, after the worst and most humiliating death, tells us most of all that new life is always possible, even and especially when it seems hardest to find.

Easter happens. Life is full of joyful, surprising, hopeful changes. We don’t belong to despair at challenge and loss, but to the promise that everything is in God’s capable, steadfast, and loving hands. The best part is, we get to be a part of that story. The story isn’t finished until we add our voice to it, write our response, and let it become real in our own lives.

So…
What will YOU do
When Easter comes to YOU?

In Christ’s peace,

Nathan

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