No more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
Our Easter day was very nice, with the Easter Breakfast and the crowded sanctuary and the handbells ringing in procession and joining the organ and trumpet to lead the congregation in “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” and ending the day with the children’s Easter egg hunt and the leftovers from breakfast for what was now an Easter brunch. It was sunny and warm and happy and sweet.
What I remember about Easter as a child was its innocence. It was about eggs and bunnies and jellybeans. It was about flowers and spring and family gatherings. It was pastel colors and my little sister looking priceless in a darling new dress.
But this morning there is news about the targeting of Christians – mostly women and children – near the children’s rides in a park in Lahore, Pakistan. As of now the news says more than sixty were killed and two hundred injured. And Brussels is still in the news. And Paris before that. And the refugees from Syria. And the violence from ISIS. And the angry words of our own election season.
The images of our happy Easter and the sorrows of the world clash in my mind and heart.
Of course, this is nothing new. That picture in my mind of Kathy in her darling new Easter dress hunting for colored eggs at Uncle Victor and Aunt Evelyn’s home on an Easter afternoon is from the years when the war in Vietnam was ramping up and we were practicing nuclear attack drills in my grade school. And somewhere in there was the Cuban missile crisis and my brother’s night-terror that there was a nuclear bomb under our bunk bed – but Easter was still innocence and candy.
I want to protect that innocence. There was a taste of it all through this last week. When Natalie arrived for work each morning she would place our large pastel, Easter eggs in different places on the lawn or “hiding” in the flower beds. And the children from the music school would get wide-eyed at these giants eggs that were as big as they – and they would climb on them and push them around and parents and nannies would be taking pictures with their cell phones. Every time I walked by I couldn’t help but smile.
We need innocence. We need simple delight. We need laughter and bright, shining eyes.
There is an element of Easter that is about innocence. We saw it in our first reading this morning where the prophet speaks to a broken and war-torn people about a time to come when all things are made new, when Jerusalem is a joy and the sound of weeping is no more, when invading armies no longer strip your fields and take your houses, when children are no longer laid in the dust of death, when peace comes even to the wolf and the lamb.
I suppose if the prophet were preaching to us he would speak of a world without fear of terrorism and war, without angry rhetoric, without police violence or violence of any kind, when the water is safe to drink in every city and the rains are gentle and reliable, when there is no fear of strange new diseases or familiar old ones.
There is a yearning in the human heart for lost innocence. But the Biblical promise isn’t about going back to a lost innocence –it is about going forward into a new innocence, a new creation, a rebirth of the human heart and a healing of the world. The Biblical promise isn’t about going back to the Garden of Eden, but going forward to the New Jerusalem.
When Jesus announces the dawning of the kingdom of God he is speaking about that healing and transformation of the world where our lives and our world are brought under the governance of God’s Spirit. The prophet Jeremiah spoke about this as the law, the teaching of God, being written on our hearts. Joel talks about it as the Spirit of God poured out on every person, young and old, slave and free. Micah talks about swords being beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. And Isaiah about light shining in the darkness.
The promise of scripture is that God will give new birth to the human heart and to our world. And the witness of Easter is that that new birth has begun. God has his foot in the door and no matter how ward we try to push him out, God is coming in.
But he’s not coming in on a horse; he’s riding a donkey. He’s not coming with a sword but in peace. He is not coming as a tyrant but a servant. He is not coming with an army of men or angels to drive out the wicked; he is healing the sick and gathering the outcast. He is washing feet. He is forgiving his betrayers. He is offering his life for the sake of the world.
Though we delight in the innocence and the Easter eggs, the story we are here to tell is of a world rescued and redeemed.
Easter speaks its truth most profoundly not on those perfect spring mornings when we were having our picture taken, dressed in our Sunday best, in front of the flower covered cross outside the church. Easter speaks its truth most profoundly in the rubble where people are crucified. There comes the message that the grave is empty. There comes word that God walks with us amidst death and sorrow that we might walk in his light and life.