Next week is Holy Week. I repeat, next week is Holy Week. I know, I can’t believe it either. It really did sneak up on me this year. I’m not going to say I was too busy or anything like that, but I feel like Ash Wednesday was just the other day. So now, maybe like some of you, I am scrambling to prepare myself for what is to come: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, our Easter Eggstravaganza, and Easter Sunday itself. Even as I sit here and type this out I think I can actually sense my blood pressure going up. But regardless of how I feel or if I seem too busy, the resurrection still breaks through. I mean, think about that first Easter Sunday for a second. Do you think any of the players in this amazing drama actually truly expected resurrection? Mark’s gospel records it this way, “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb” – Mark 16:1-2 Everyone was doing what they had always done when something like death enters the picture and then, out of nowhere, the resurrection breaks through.
I am thankful though, that nature has an incredible way of reminding us even if we seem too busy or overwhelmed. Maybe it’s the increasing minutes of sunlight. Or maybe it might be like my back patio where the smell of blooming wisteria almost bowls you over. Or maybe it is even like the photo one of my friends from Michigan posted of a small flower fighting its way through the snow encrusted landscape. Whatever the sign might be for you, the world around us is never surprised by resurrection and new birth. It’s built into the very fabric of being of all that is. Yet for some reason we often become so busy, overwhelmed, anxious, scheduled, (fill in the blank with your appropriate adjective), etc. that we NEED the resurrection to break through in a way that reminds us that this is built into our very identity as well.
So maybe you find yourself coming into this Easter season overwhelmed. The resurrection still breaks through. Maybe you find yourself coming into this Easter season lost in grief and sorrow. The resurrection still breaks through. Perhaps you find yourself coming into this Easter season fearful of the future and the unknown. Guess what…the resurrection still breaks through. Whatever emotion or feeling or predicament you find yourself consumed with today still doesn’t stop resurrection from breaking through. For once the world was covered in sadness and sorrow from that which had taken place on Calvary and yet, Sunday morning still came and the universe was reborn because Easter broke through.
I am a lover of nature. I guess in some respects I always have been. I grew up at the foot of Lookout Mountain and have always loved chasing after bugs, reptiles, craw-fish and anything else that would cross my path. Being outdoors was just a natural a part of my formative years. Of course now I reside in Odessa, TX. When we lived in Michigan our cabin fever season existed during the winter months. You got out, but only if you had to. In West Texas I have discovered that cabin fever runs through the months of June – August. Never have I been more thankful for air-conditioning in my life. So what does the nature lover do in Odessa, TX? My wife recently helped out with this when she came home from a shopping trip with a bird feeder. I was ecstatic. But after two days, the birds were no closer to feasting on the bounty I had set before them. I then read that most song birds do not rely on a sense of smell to find a feeder, but by sight. So I began to leave seed all around the feeder to invite them to the spread laid out before them and this morning we almost had our first guest perch.
It reminds me of this parable that we recently took another look at in one of our Wednesday night gatherings. In the parable of The Great Banquet we hear of a master who prepared a feast and those invited decided to make excuses instead of attending. His servant then went out and invited the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. Even after this, the banquet wasn’t full and we read this, “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.” – Luke 14:23 The servant was instructed to go to all those considered outsiders and to “compel” them to come to the banquet. There is almost this presupposition that these outsiders will hear of this feast, receive the invitation from the servant, but then think it is not for them. So the Greek here actually refers to the servant having to almost drag them to the feast so that they will know it’s for them.
I’ve felt a little like this with the bird feeder. Here I have this abundance of food laid out for the birds but they don’t know it’s for them. I have to lead them to it…show them that this feast is for them. It’s the same way for us in the church with the gift of forgiveness and new life in Christ. Those who are on the outside and haven’t experienced God’s forgiveness often don’t even know what is being made available. Sometimes they don’t even realize that they have this need. And yet, God has laid out this extravagant feast that we refer to as The Kingdom of God or New Life in Christ and he has charged us with sharing the invitation. But much like my own predicament with the feeder, it is not good enough for it just to be. We are called to “compel” those outside, to lead them to the table and reassuringly tell them, “it’s for you”. May we find ourselves caught up in the joy of the servant offering up this compelling invitation to those outside today and continually remind them, “it’s for you”.