This was an actual conversation between a mom and her four-year old daughter some days before Easter.
“Mommy,” asks the four-year old girl, “Will the Easter bunny bring me purple jelly beans?”
Mom says, “I’m sure he’ll bring you jelly beans. But remember, Easter isn’t just about the bunny. It’s about Jesus.”
“But will they be purple?” the girl persists.
“Yes honey,” mom reassures. “I’m sure there’ll be some purple ones in there. Honey, the important thing about Easter isn’t the bunny. Easter is about how much Jesus loves you and me and the whole world.”
“Mommy, HOW MANY purple jelly beans will the Easter Bunny bring me?”
“I think he’ll probably bring plenty of purple jellybeans. Do you know how much Jesus loves you?”
“Will he also bring me Cadbury Mini-Eggs?”
We know what’s way more fun for a four-year-old at Easter-time, right?
And so, there are many fun and good things about the Easter holidays that we should enjoy – getting together with family and friends, enjoying some time off in our busy and stressed out lives, and yes, even chocolates and bunnies.
All good things come from God, for us to enjoy and have fun with.
But I also suspect that at Easter time or any other time, we all, to varying degrees, are looking for that something more, that something beyond the candy-coated chocolate eggs and purple jelly beans, something beyond the external, surface appearances of our ordinary lives.
Especially when the world seems so black outside, when clouds of grief or despair, disappointment or anger, or guilt and shame over mistakes made past or present, when those clouds swirl around us, we know we need more than bunnies, chocolate eggs or jelly beans.
That’s certainly how the world feels and looks to Mary Magdalene early that morning when she visits the tomb of Jesus.
The darkness of the dawn shrouds Mary in her grief.
The brutal, horrific violence of the execution of Jesus, and the flagrant injustice surrounding his arrest and sentencing just a few hours ago still haunt Mary’s thoughts and memories.
And now, because Jesus’ executioners are not too far away – and who knows who they’re going after next – the icy, cold grip of fear squeezes the very breath of air in her lungs as she quickly and quietly makes her way along the path to one of the most ultimate of despairing places on earth – the tomb housing the dead body of her loved one – Jesus.
Mary’s world could not have felt more closed in, limited, boxed in. She’s resigned to the finality of death.
She can’t see past it.
And yet, it is at this very doorstep of the tomb, that the doorway to heaven suddenly opens up, where that “something more” suddenly and unexpectedly bursts open before Mary’s tear-streaked face.
Like at dawn, when the sun’s light finally breaks over the horizon, flooding the once-before dark world with warm, brilliant light, Mary’s encounter with the risen Jesus forever changes the landscape of her heart and world, convincing her from then on, that there’s always something more, always something beyond what appears on the surface:
That the life and love of Divine Presence is set loose and active in the world in often surprising and unexpected ways.
Scientists have studied the mineral and chemical composition of the human body, and they’ve calculated the approximate percentage breakdown of these minerals and chemicals in the human body, as follows:
Less than 1% of potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, magnesium, iron and iodine….
And trace quantities of fluorine, silicon, manganese, zinc, copper, aluminum, and arsenic.
Now, the cost of all those parts – the dollar cost based on the common market – has also been calculated.
Do you want to guess how much the human body based on its mineral and chemical composition is worth?
If anyone guessed less than $1, you’d be correct. Less than $1.
Apparently, our skin is our most valuable physical asset. It is worth about $3.50.
So, added all up, we’re worth less than $5!
Really?!? Is that so?
Easter is about recognizing that we’re worth far more than the “market-value” sum of our biological parts.
There’s definitely something more, which is abundant life: The abundant life and love of Divine Presence, flowing in and through us, and set loose in the world, showing up in the most surprising and unexpected ways.
But what do we do with that discovery, that awareness?
Mary Magdalene went out and told the disciples, and was not shy to share her experience of God’s life and love as stronger than death and hate.
She wasn’t quiet about it.
The soldiers guarding the tomb saw exactly the same thing as Mary Magdalene did. They too witnessed the resurrection!
But they kept quiet about it. They were bribed, given a large sum of money from the authorities to keep quiet about it. They didn’t want news of resurrection to further upset the status quo.
As disciples of Jesus in the 21st century, we take up the challenge to not keep quiet, but instead, to tell, to share, through our words and actions, to give witness to God’s life and love, even when it seems so bleak outside.
Things were looking bleak for the Lutheran Church in America, back in 1968 (It’s hard to imagine the Lutheran church in ’68 having problems to speak of, compared to today).
But listen now to how the then president of the LCA, Dr. Franklin Fry, addressed these problems to the 1968 convention.
“Many are so panicky that they are ready to throw the rigging overboard. All of us are at least perplexed and to a degree insecure.”
Then he continued, likening the church to a boat:
“The comforting thought is that even [shipbuilders] don’t build their ships for calm weather and placid seas. Still less does God! Even though it may be buffeted by contrary winds, and adverse currents may threaten to drive it off its course, Christ’s Church is on its way with all the certainty of his promise to its home port in eternity.”
To me these are resurrection words of hope and encouragement for us today – in the church, in our personal lives, in the world.
These words that speak of that “something more” of God’s all-powerful life and love that will never abandon us, just like God never abandoned the Israelites wandering in the Sinai Peninsula desert.
As author Kathleen Norris said, “God never brings us to a desert, in order to let us die there.”
No, God brings us to the desert, so we might experience God’s life – in new, surprising, and unexpected ways.