Monday, April 9, 2007

Drifting Thoughts On Easter

Today we attended a beautiful Easter service, and the sermon was a vivid reminder that Jesus conquered death when he rose from the grave. We read the Nicene Creed with its marvelous stanza: “On the third day he rose again.” The dead body placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea had been lifeless on Friday, but on Sunday it was lifeless no more. By some other-worldly violation of natural laws, Jesus was breathing, talking, and walking in and among his astonished disciples. One doubtful disciple even felt compelled to put his finger into Jesus’ wound to convince himself that the crucified Jesus was indeed alive. It was hard to believe, but there before them all Jesus stood. The tomb was empty; death had been defeated.

During this uplifting sermon, my thoughts drifted (it happens to theologians too). Unable to reign in my mind (or was it my heart) I began to ask why the resurrection applied to Jesus, but not Kelly. Why did Jesus walk out of his tomb and Kelly did not? Both believed in “one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.” Both believed in the divine resurrection power. There was one irony. It struck me that when Jesus was buried, no one expected a resurrection—least of all his own disciples. But when we learned that Kelly was entombed in a snow cave at 11,000 feet, we publicly declared our hope and faith that he would come out alive—that there would be a kind of resurrection. I was devastated when Kelly was found frozen in death. I did not want to believe it. I wanted a resurrection, but it was not to be. Kelly was gone.

So what does the empty tomb of Jesus have to do with the snowy tomb of Kelly James? Everything. Kelly would have loved today’s Easter sermon because he confessed as I did today and as Christians have for nearly seventeen hundred years (since A.D. 325 when the Nicene Creed was written) that “We look for the resurrection of the dead.” Nicene Christians were not immune to the heartache of loss and grief. Over the centuries, and amid enough tears to fill an ocean, so many believers have had to bury loved ones in tombs. But they too hoped for a future resurrection.

As my mind wandered in the mists, I believed there was a profound and direct connection between the empty tomb of Jesus and the snowy tomb of my brother. I will henceforth say these precious words—“We look for the resurrection of the dead”—with a solemn hope and a new horizon in view. But I will not rest in peace until Kelly rises from the grave and leaves behind an empty tomb.

"For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost…But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep…For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:16-22).