April 28, 2003

The days after Easter

___By John Duncan
___I am sitting here under the old oak tree wondering about the days after Easter. Spring sprouts with the haze of bluebonnets and green grass. Lawn mowers fire up after the chill of winter. And in our town, workers dumped loads of chlorine in the city pool in preparation for teenagers to hang out. I dub this the "hang out generation" because everybody just wants to "hang out." Do you hang out?
___The gospel writer John tells about the days after Easter—of Mary leaving the empty tomb of Jesus and her encounter with two angels dressed in dazzling apparel prettier than a prom dress. She also encountered Jesus whom she thought was a gardener. The Bible gives details about the realties of daily life—weeping women grieving at an empty borrowed tomb, parables of farming and seed sowing and laborers in the vineyard, and a case of mistaken identity, Jesus confused with the gardener (John 20:18). Did the garden need to be de-weeded? John then tells us about Mary as she ran to share the good news. Do you not love good news?
___Good news brings laughter and a lift to the human spirit. What about Jessica Lynch and seven prisoners of war rescued from captivity in Iraq? When Jessica’s family and the other POWs’ families received the news of rescue, do you think they jumped over the couch in elation and happiness? Good news brings relief, like receiving news from the doctor that your test results from all that poking and prodding on your body came back OK. Good news delivers a smile to the soul, like discovering that your checkbook balanced when you just knew you that it was overdrawn. Good news demands a hearing, like that which you shared when your baby daughter entered mother earth through the canal of her birth. Some things have to be shared. John tells us Mary shared good news with the disciples. It happened in the days after Easter.
___The gospel writer and medical doctor Luke tells us of the first few days after Easter. After Easter, the lightning and thunder of Friday and the gory cross and the silent tomb and the explosion of joy on resurrection morning behind, Luke simply records, "And they remembered his words" (John 24:8). Here I am on the days after Easter thinking of all the things I forget—the grocery list, my car keys ("Where did I put them?"), my Palm Pilot ("Has any one seen my Palm Pilot?"), a meeting ("It was when?"), and once upon a time, my daughter. I called my wife on the cell phone:
___"Do you have our oldest daughter? Honey, you have her don’t you? Please tell you do have her!"
___"No, I told you to pick her up."
___"Are you sure? Well, I guess I forgot, but I remembered before I got home and am now turning around to go back and get her." She waited patiently at church.
___I can only imagine how much would be forgotten were it not for cell phones in today’s world. How did the women at Jesus’ tomb and the disciples remember if they did not have cell phones? How do you remember without a cell phone? How do you remember if you always forget?
___It took an awful lot of forgetting and two shining angels delivering dazzling words for them to remember that Jesus said he would rise on the third day. He arose.
___Old Luke tells us that Peter marveled, which means that he too had forgotten and now remembered and decided to spend the rest of his life dispensing the good news. Today we call that a preacher, but every Christian after Easter ought to have some good news to tell.
___Then Luke tells us that Jesus walked a road, vanished and ate a breakfast of broiled fish and honeycomb. My late grandmother once declared: "You should always eat breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day." Holy cow, she learned it from Jesus. After Easter, Jesus ate breakfast. Remember breakfast. Remember the resurrection every time you eat breakfast. I would skip the broiled fish and go for donuts and cereal, though.
___Matthew records how the Roman guards tried to distort the good news with bad news. He tells of meeting in back rooms filled with smoke and plots to lie about Jesus’ body and bribes, the jingling of silver coins rolling around in soft money bags. Still, one can only hear the echo of Jesus’ own words when Matthew describes the sinister plot: "Rejoice!" (Matthew 28:9). Can we do anything but rejoice in the days after Easter?
___ Mark grieves with his after-Easter words: "And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either." Easter joy aims to open a window of belief, letting light into the soul. Easter reality closes a window of darkness to the stark reality that even after all those Easter musicals and swelling Easter crowds at churches and Easter sermons where preachers preach their hearts out and Easter lilies blooming like angels in dazzling apparel and "The Ten Commandments" on television every year, some people still do not believe. They simply forget. They forget Jesus.
___Jesus even rebuked his own disciples, who by now were remembering everything Jesus had said and were getting an earful at the table for their "unbelief and hardness of heart" (Mark 16:14). After Jesus got through with them, I do not think they ever forgot. An earful at the table has a way of heightening the senses and alerting the memory. You never forget.
___If all this talk about the days after Easter and forgetting and remembering does not make sense to you, I am not sure it makes sense to me, either. But one thing I know, Jesus’ resurrection does not make sense either, but I believe in it and him by faith with all my heart, and it helps me remember the most important things in life, and it causes me not worry about sinister plots, but it makes me rejoice every morning when I eat breakfast.
___ Oh, by the way, I never miss breakfast.

___John Duncan is pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church in Granbury, Texas, and the writer of numerous articles in various journals and magazines

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