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Layers of Easter


John 13:34-35

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Mary and I just returned from a week in Monterey, our favorite vacation site. We love the ocean, the redwoods, the seafood, and the walks along the local coast. We enjoy going to the rocks and watching the waves crash and hearing the sounds of the sea.

I share this every time I return because it impresses me each time I am there. When I listen to the ocean, I hear at least three layers of sound. The first and most immediate is the high-pitched sound of the waves crashing on the rocks. It is what salespeople refer to as the “Sizzle”. They sell the sizzle to people – the qualities that draw our attention and are the most exciting. Crashing waves are visually exciting and aurally delightful. If we are close enough, we can feel the spray and smell the ocean air. It engages all our senses.

Yet, behind the crashing sounds are the waves themselves. It takes some practice to differentiate these sounds, but the waves sound lower in pitch than the crashes. They are deeper and are the cyclic creators of the force that causes the sizzle that pleases us. They form only some of the ‘roar’ that we hear from the ocean.

Because behind the waves, if we listen carefully, we hear a deep and constant foundational sound. It is not periodic like a wave; it feels ancient. It is the source of all waves. Unlike a wave that forms and crashes then seemingly disappears, this profound relentless sound, the birther of all that we appreciate from a seaside encounter, persists.

On this trip I came to another realization. That same layered experience applies to watching Mary as she uncovers the treasure of the shells she seeks on the beach. Unlike her, when I scan the beaches, my eye is drawn to the unusual, the sizzle that the shore holds. I see bright shells and pick them up. I investigate larger things like unique pieces of wood, or the recognizable large circular shape of a sand dollar. I see only the sizzle.

But as I watched Mary, it dawned on me that she was seeing past the sizzle to another layer. She would bend down and pay more attention, being drawn to specific shapes and shells. She likes welks, turbans, and hermit crab shells – as perfect as she can find. Her eye is more discriminating than mine. She knows what she likes and what she is looking for. She is ready for the shape in her mind to be found by her eyes.

Then beyond that layer of shells is the fact that the entire beach is made from shells and sand – bits of ground granite and shells. There is always a fundamental to what we enjoy.

This year I realized that about Easter as well. Easter is a celebration of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, our Christ. We may have spoken creeds claiming that Jesus was crucified, died, buried, and rose again from the dead. This is the meaning of Easter; this creed is the sizzle, the delight, the miracle, and the importance of Easter.

If this is the sizzle, let us look at the next deeper layer of Easter, what this means to us. Jesus died for our sins and overcame death. What does that mean? According to tradition, all our sins, past, present, and future, have been forgiven. So, can we just lead a life of doing whatever we want, sinning daily, and then on our deathbed pray to Christ and have all those sins be forgiven? Well, God loves us no matter what, and our sins are forgiven, but we are still responsible for our actions and the consequences of our actions, thoughts, attitudes, and words. Therefore, we would be absurdly ignorant to go through life injuring and disrespecting others. We cannot avoid the results of our worldly choices.

Galatians 6:5-10 teaches us: For we are each responsible for our own conduct. Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them. Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

This is the deeper layer of Easter. Yes, our sins are forgiven, but we are still responsible for our own conduct. We are responsible for following the teachings of Christ, to love God, to love and forgive each other and ourselves, and to respect each other. This is part of the Easter message, just deeper than the most obvious images.

Then there are the deepest meanings. Why would Jesus agree to all of this – to be tried, tortured, and crucified? The only answer is love. Christ loved us and wanted to follow his Father’s instruction despite the personal pain. God raised Jesus to wholeness. Left behind was the battered physical form and what came out of that tomb was a complete and victorious being. Not only was Jesus raised from the dead, but he was given life beyond what he was before. Jesus endured all the horrific trials because he loves us and wanted us to know that if God would raise him, God will raise us.

Death is not the end; it is just the final worldly event we endure. Our faith tells us that since there is a God, just as Christ was resurrected, we will be resurrected. Since God is real, heaven is real, and we will join our loved ones again. And why would God create such a system? The only answer is love. God is love, and that love was displayed on earth through the countenance of Jesus Christ. That same love now endures within us, around us, and reaches out to connect with others.

It is my prayer that the power of the risen Christ makes its presence known within our mind, heart, body, and soul. Just as Mary holds the shape of the desired shell in her mind and looks for it, I pray that we awaken to the love, joy, and peace of Jesus, hold it in our hearts and minds, and search for the deepest meaning and the true power of Easter, which is to love one another.


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