by | Apr 10, 2023

Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?

1 Corinthians 15:54b-55

The Resurrection is real!

This Easter weekend, the joy of Christ’s resurrection has lifted my heart in unexpected ways.

For Good Friday, I attended the annual service of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus, Southern California chapter, which has been a great tradition. During COVID, it went to Zoom, of course, and this year, for the first time, they had a hybrid service, which allowed some to gather in person in Los Angeles, while also welcoming siblings from the Bay Area, thanks to the coordinating efforts of our friend Rev. Kamal Hassan, pastor of Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church in Richmond. NBPC does a traditional “Seven Last Words of Christ” service, with seven different preachers, and there were some powerful sermons that lifted my soul even as they were true to the suffering of Christ.

I also happened upon some sermons given by a pastor of a church of multiple races and classes in downtown LA. And as I prepared to preach at Eagle Rock Presbyterian Church on Easter morning,

I found encouragement in a recent gospel song, “Jireh,” which starts with the words “I’ll never be more loved than I am right now,” and shares the message that because God’s love is enough, so we are enough, and we have enough. As it happens, the apartment of one of the song’s writers—and co-lead singer—was destroyed by fire a few days before he was scheduled to record the song. He shared that he lost 98% of his material possessions in that fire, so there was even more power in the message when he sang it. The song has been a lifeline of hope for many people who were in despair due to homelessness, grief, or addiction. Both the pastor’s preaching and this song emphasize the life-giving grace and love of Jesus Christ, especially for people who have been burdened with shame, or despair, or lack of hope in themselves and the world. They remind me that Jesus’ sacrifice was most radically redemptive for those who have good reason to give up—and yet, who are able to look up from the pit to glimpse what great thing God has done in Jesus Christ.

As far as I can tell, I personally have no reason to give up, and my pride or privilege keeps me from fully recognizing my own need for God’s grace. I have been wondering, however, why so many people ask me with grave expressions, “How are you doing?” I am aware of the troubles of the world, and now that the weather has FINALLY become warmer and sunnier, I realize how much the cold and rain really did throw a shadow over my sense of well-being. But generally, I have always felt that God has given me more health and comfort than I deserve. The only response I have is to live a life of gratitude, and to pray and work for more people to know security and comfort in this broken world.

For this Easter, my soul is lightened as I feel just a smidgen of the deep love and grace that Jesus has, especially for those who need it the most. I am committed to share in the joy that is felt when God floods us with more healing, more hope, more life than we ever thought possible. I pray that I can keep my eyes open for those who are most hungry for the new life that Christ brings, without dwelling in the despair that seems so prevalent and paralyzing. I am aware of some of the ways that I fall short of my desire to be a better channel of God’s grace due to my impatience and general insensitivity, and hope to do better in this Easter season and beyond.

I have a favorite Easter poem, written by Korean Christian poet Ku Sang, that expresses the hope that Easter brings.

On an old plum tree stump,
seemingly dead and rotten,
like a garland of victory
flowers gleam, dazzling.

Rooted in you, even in death all things remain alive;
we see them reborn, transfigured.
How then could we doubt our own Resurrection since
by your own you gave us proof?

Since there is your Resurrection and ours,
Truth exists;
since there is your Resurrection and ours,
Justice triumphs;
since there is your Resurrection and ours,
suffering accepted has value;
since there is your Resurrection and ours,
our faith, hope, love, are not in vain;
since there is your Resurrection and ours,
our lives are not an empty abyss.

I pray that you felt the joy of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday, and that you feel it every day. We are blessed to know God’s power of love over hatred and fear, of hope over despair, of life over death. May we be bearers of this good news to all around us, in word, in attitude, and in deed.

With Resurrection joy,