As grandparents we watched our two granddaughters, Kathryn and Carling search for Easter eggs at our home and yard some years ago.
Full of anticipation, wearing brightly coloured, clothes, they raced from place to place filling their baskets.
The egg, an ancient symbol of new life had been associated with pagan festivals celebrating spring. The Easter bunny relates back to a bunny who reportedly laid eggs in the spring. That bunny is now the ubiquitous chocolate Easter bunny. Like many other Christian customs, eggs and bunnies at Easter were adopted from the pagan celebrations. From the Christian perspective, Easter eggs, each egg symbolizing the potential for life, are said to represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb – resurrection. So, eggs are frequently served for breakfast on Easter Sunday morning. They are beautifully decorated to express the joy of the Easter message, and candy Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies have become a great commercial opportunity.
As a young boy, during a country school recess, I tripped and fell into a swiftly moving stream of water. The flow in the ditch emptied into the nearby spring-flooded creek. The ditch water at its entry into the creek created a waterfall drop of several feet. The current carried me feet first to the brink of the falls where I managed to clasp the branch of a willow tree. I hung tenuously for life as water rushed over and under me. My brothers and friends raced to my predicament drawing me out of the water to safety. It was a frightening, death imminent moment I have never forgotten. For me, it was a moment, an opportunity to continue living – resurrection.
Have you ever had a friend who you loved and cherished and then that person de-friended you? Imagine the despair of that group of individuals, men and women, who had found inspiration and new visions for living in the ideas and leadership of their friend and leader, Jesus, when suddenly he is crucified as a political criminal. Hope is gone. Life reverts to former rules and work – humdrum. But more than that – who can they ever trust again! Devastated they separate, some returning to their former homes and occupations.
Then they hear from a few individuals, Jesus is alive. He’s been seen. The power of that story of resurrection gave them a chance to live again and as we say, the rest is history – the Christian church emerged and changed the world.
There’s a story told by a man named Ezekiel, of a valley filled with dry bones. It could have been an ancient battlefield where the nation of Israel fought against the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar. Israel lost. The dead and injured Israelis were left to rot, and decades later the valley is filled with the bones of these soldiers. As Ezekiel watched in his vision, the bones began coming together, bone upon bone, muscles wrapping bones and skin covering muscles. The whole field was soon alive with animated people. What has dry bones got to do with eggs and bunnies? This vision was God’s way of telling Ezekiel, the defeated nation of Israel was to experience a new day, new life – resurrection.
There are times when we “hit the wall”, come to an abrupt stop at the end of our leash, experience failure with work, friendships, or school. Defeated we struggle to find hope and energy to go on. Despair immobilizes our body. Did we hold the egg, but squeezed it too hard so that tiny embryo of life spilled out? It’s at moments like these we long for, hope for a new beginning. We long for someone to pull us from the brink of the waterfall, to energize our dry life.
Resurrection can be experienced in many ways. It can come from the realization the spirit of God is with us, loving, encouraging, lifting us away from our despair. And how does this happen – through eggs and chocolate bunnies?
Our grandchildren are too old now to be gathering eggs and bunnies on Easter morning. (They still love to receive them.) But our wish this Easter is that our grandchildren and all of us be the eggs, the bunnies, the source of new life for a friend in despair, the encouraging word to the disappointed or bereaved, the helping hand to someone “on the brink” of failure, grief or despair.
A few years ago Jean and I were about to enter a grocery store and while picking up a grocery cart, we stopped to chat with two strangers, a gentleman, and a teenaged girl. In the course of our conversing, almost out of the blue, it seemed to me, the teenaged girl said to the older man, “Don’t you think he has the eyes of Jesus?” She was referring to me. I was blown away so to speak. No not me! Those aren’t my eyes! But later as I thought about her comment, I realized I wanted to have such eyes. All of us have the “eyes of Jesus”. We just need to recognize that, and use those eyes and that God spirit within us to recognize our worth and to help brighten someone else’s dark moment.
This Easter, may our Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies be reminders to use our “God eyes” to see our self in new resurrection ways and to look for the Divine in others that they, as yet, may not have recognized.
Happy resurrection Easter!