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This isn't the Easter I wanted, but perhaps it was the Easter I needed.
40 days ago, Lent began. A time to reflect and embrace the weight of sin and the fragility of life. I don't think any of us expected to be living in the midst of a pandemic while also continuously being reminded that we are but dust, a mere vapor. Death has felt more heavy in the past couple of months than ever before - literally as though it is lurking around the corner not caring who it takes next. But death always feels like that, doesn't it? Quiet, unseen. Until it isn't.
When Christ died on the Cross those many years ago, the disciples were told it was coming. Literally, Jesus Himself told them what was going to be, but the day still came and shock along with it. This man they had put all of their trust into, the One they had left everything to follow, the man they believed would rescue them, still died. They watched with their own eyes from the bottom of that hill as He cried out His last words to the Father and later as the guards pierced His side. They wept and mourned, prepared His body for burial, watched it go into a tomb, with a stone rolled over the entrance.
I wonder how long they sat there outside the tomb or at the bottom of that hill. As all the doubts came flooding in, the questioning of what just happened. He died. He told them it was going to be true, but they never quite grasped it. And now, instead of a saving, there was suffering. And then, quiet. The silent Saturday.
Much of life today feels like the Saturday, because we live in the already, but the not yet. We are in the middle part of the story, each day closer and closer to when Christ comes again. I've always seemed to find myself in the "middle." Growing up, I was the youngest, but I always sat in the middle of the backseat. I was in the middle of ages of my cousins - no one quite my age, but always older or younger. In school, I found myself in the middle of friend groups - never quite in with this one or that. And now in the present, I often feel in the middle of friends who are beginning marriages or celebrating the birthdays of their children. And though we don't know the time or the hour, I'm in the middle of my own life. A childhood gone, but still much adulthood to be seen. I'm here, at an age where Jesus was getting into the groove of doing His ministry - and then the Lord told Him it was time. But His time didn't end, it just went silent for a Saturday.
There are days where our silence, the desperation, the anguish, the troubles and trials of life, seems to last only for a little while, but then there are days it seems to drag on. One Saturday becomes another and another and before we know it, a year has passed. And I'm tempted to believe that in all of that time, God stayed silent. Quiet. Unseen.
But we know by now that things happen even in the dark and darkness doesn't last. Saturday didn't stay silent then and it doesn't now.
At the beginning of the year, I like to pick a word for the year. I don't think about it every day, but it does seem to shape the different seasons throughout the year - because God is funny and gracious like that. My word for 2020 - arise. Also at the beginning of the year, I quietly started praying for revival. For my church, for the world, but I think more than anything, for myself. Arise is defined as coming into being, to stand up. Revival is a reawakening, a restoration. I see now that I can't have one without the other.
Only when revived will I then be able to arise.
But if I'm to be revived and eventually arise , that must also mean I was restored from something.
Where death lurks, sin does also. The result of sin is death. There is no escaping either. Here in the middle, it is what is filling our lives. We become so accustomed to the middle, to sin, that we forget there is a "not yet." We sit in the sin, eventually entangled so much, that we then wish for nothing but darkness. We think that turning off the lights or closing our eyes makes it all disappear, but even in the darkness, in whatever tomb we find ourselves in, something, Someone, is stirring. Revival is waiting.
Saturday after Christ died was silent, but we don't have to be. Not much, if anything, is said about that in-between, middle day. And while we don't know for sure what the disciples did that day, I'm sure there was fear, worry, loneliness, crying, anger even. Remember, the man they had put all their trust into was dead. They saw Him there, they saw the tomb! How else could this end but darkness and silence?
With revival. With victory. With a plot twist that no one saw coming even though they were told so.
And their story is our story. Even when it doesn't look like one we would have written. Like one where we live in a pandemic. One where we can't gather together as the church or with our families. One where our family members die and we can't be near them. One where friends get married and have babies and we can't hold them. Our story is one of a middle that is messy and hard and often full of things we wouldn't chose for ourselves. But the middle is the middle, it's the already, not yet. The middle is not the end.
The middle is the silent Saturday, but we have also seen the resurrection day. The day where the Lord rose making way for us to rise as well. A Holy Sunday where the darkness gave way and light peaked in as the stone was rolled away. Sin's curse of death was broken and what once entangled us no longer needs to bound us. Let sin fall to the ground and weep over it. Not because you miss it, but because now you see how much it was keeping you from God. Let now what once entangled you be gone and in its place find roots that grow deep and wide, keeping you standing firm. Find in sin's place a new vine. A living vine.
Instead of death and darkness, find reawakening and a new place to be. Don't remain quiet and unseen, death is defeated remember? Join the disciples in being overjoyed at seeing the Lord. What once seemed impossible was made possible in their sight. He was there again with them. And by His Holy Spirit, He is here with us now, in the already not yet. And by the promise of His word, He is making a place for us and will come again.
Today, this middle, may not look how I want it to, but it's the one I need. To see Jesus be who He says He would be - resurrected King. Light. The Way. He is my revival and the One who calls out to me, "arise." May it be so.
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