The Last Word
Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; April 12, 2020
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! As Christians, this is our best day—our day of days. As one preacher put it, “Being a Christian at Easter is better than being Irish on St. Patrick’s Day; better than being a child on Christmas morning! If Easter doesn’t ring your bell, your clapper must be stuck! This is the day that we, as God’s people, get to sit on cloud nine and dangle our toes in star dust.”[i]
This Resurrection morn, we pause to reflect on the incredible work God has done. The tomb is empty; death has been defeated. Our hearts are filled with joy because today we are invited to see the world through new eyes, through new lenses, if you will. So, let’s put on our Easter glasses to consider a different perspective about who we are, and whose we are. Rest assured, perspective—it matters!
There’s an old story about a little boy and girl who happened to be brother and sister. Their mother was in a department store and needed to pick up one or two more items so she took them to the soda fountain for an ice cream cone, hoping that might keep them busy for a few minutes. She left them at that end of the store, happily licking on their cones, and told them to stay there until she returned. Well, there was an elevator right beside the soda fountain and the children simply could not resist the temptation to get on it. So, with ice cream cones in hand, off they went. They were having such fun, but the little boy’s ice cream was melting faster than he could eat it. Even though he kept licking it with all his might, the sweet treat kept dripping down the cone and onto his hand. Finally, when the elevator stopped, a woman got on who was wearing a lovely, full-length fur coat. When the elevator began moving again, the little fellow began to gently wipe the melting ice cream on her coat. Horrified, his little sister whispered, “Be careful, Joey; you’ll get fur on your ice cream.” Now that’s a different perspective—a different lens through which to view the world.
The first Easter sermon was proclaimed by women, who obeyed Jesus’ command to “go and tell.” We are here today because somewhere along the way, we, too, have heard their message—the message that, long ago, they saw the risen Lord. But, let’s be honest. To believe the Easter message is challenging. To do so, we must accept that God lives and gives us life. But more than that, we have to believe that God broke God’s own law of nature and raised Jesus from the dead. We have to believe that something so extraordinary happened that morning, it continues to have power to transform us mind, body, and soul.[ii] The Christmas story may be a little easier to digest—a baby born in a lowly manger—with a choir of angels singing praises. Jesus’ life and ministry may be more palatable, after all, we would expect God’s Son to heal and love people, right? But resurrection? Could God have had the last word in all things, raising Jesus from the dead, thereby pronouncing all things possible, now and forevermore?
“The last word”—what an interesting phrase.[iii] What does it mean? To have the last word is to make the last statement in a discussion or argument, as in “Jimmy can’t stand to lose an argument. He always has to have the last word.” To have the last word also refers to making the final decision about something as in “The head chef has the final word on what’s being served in the restaurant.”
If God has the last word—if the resurrection story is true, then we still have a mountain of questions. We look around at the world and how much suffering is going on—physically—mentally—and spiritually—and Jesus seems nowhere near. I mean, where is Jesus when people are dying by the thousands? Where is Jesus when governments are using a disaster to further their own agendas? Where is Jesus when children are going hungry? Where is Jesus when the most dangerous place for a woman may be in her own home? Where is Jesus when men and women and children are fearing for their future? Where is Jesus?
Could it be that Easter glasses are in order? With a different perspective, we might see Jesus in the face of people suffering from COVID-19. We might see that it is by the power of Christ’s own Spirit that people rush toward danger for love of neighbor. With Easter glasses, we might see Jesus in the face of doctors, nurses, and scientists. Jesus wipes the fevered brow and provides tender care. Jesus brings in truckloads of medical equipment and food supplies. Jesus is the cashier at the store and the teller at the bank. And, whenever possible, Jesus chooses to stay home when doing so is the quickest way to slow down a killer pandemic.
Jesus is not now, nor has he ever been, constrained to a temple or a church. Jesus carries on God’s love and raises the cup of salvation from sea to shining sea—for everyone to drink. Set free, he reigns in our hearts and minds and because of his love—we, too, are set free. No doubt, there are days that we look at the world and feel discouraged—especially when so much darkness and evil seem to have the last word. But when that happens, it behooves us to put on our Easter glasses for a second look, because through Christ, God has the last word. No more does violence have the last word for Christ is risen. No more does greed have the last word for Christ is risen. No more does death have the last word, for Christ is risen. Let us put on our Easter glasses and celebrate. For Christ is risen; he is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen!
[i] Rev. Vic Pentz
[ii] Feasting on the Word, Martin B. Copenhaver, 370
[iii] My thinking on “the last word” was influenced by a prayer written by Brian McLauren for pastors who have the daunting task of preaching on Easter.
*Cover Art by Stushie Art, used by subscription.