Sunday, April 8, 2012

Finding Yourself in Easter

The Easter story is simple. This is part of what makes it so profound.
            Jesus came and gathered followers. Then he was arrested and executed. Then, three days later, he rose from the dead.
            Simple because the events are straightforward.
            Profound because he find ourselves in these same events.

ACT 1: Hope
            The final week of Jesus’ life begins with wide-eyed excitement and anticipation. The disciples have really bought into Jesus and the possibilities seem limitless. Who knows what their lives might be like, but why stop dreaming?
            This excitement parallels how many of us feel at the beginning of our lives.  We enter into the world and we get excited about the possibilities. We look forward to exploring the beauty of the planet, having adventures, going pro in sports, finding love, and being successful in our work. We imagine that we could be all-stars, authors, and astronauts. There seems like no reason to dream small.

ACT 2: Disillusionment
            Then we are hit with reality. Whether we achieve our dreams or not, we end up disappointed. Some of us come nowhere near our dreams. We can’t be professional athletes because we lack the physical gifts. We can’t be astronauts because of health limitations. We don’t find love because it just doesn’t happen. Through no fault of our own, we fall short of the imagined glory we once had.
            On the other hand, some of us seem to achieve our dreams. We attain the family and the professional life that we always thought was possible. But then we find that we are still empty and discontent. Our spouses let us down. Our jobs bore us. And beyond all of this, we find ourselves failing personally and professionally. We struggle to stay faithful to our spouses, to live up to expectations in friendships, and to stay disciplined with our health. We find that the reality of our lives fall short of our hopes.
            Our disappointment is paralleled by that of the disciples. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus hears this disappointment from the lips of two of his disciples who are grieving his death. “We thought he would redeem Israel,” they say. You can imagine the disillusionment. “We really got our hopes up. We thought he would fix things and usher in a golden age. It seemed like things could only get better. Then reality set in. What a letdown.” Now Jesus’ disciples have nothing left to do except lick their wounds and readjust their expectations. At this moment they are probably vowing never to get their hopes up again.
            Sadly, many of us never emerge for the disillusionment that sets in when reality crushed our dreams. We live half-hearted lives and stay only half-awake for them. We occasionally enjoy the simple pleasures of life, but this only serves to temper the deep disappointment that we feel at our core. There is no discernible solution.
            Where do we find hope in the midst of our disillusionment? There can be no easy solution. It doesn’t work to replace our dreams with new ones. It doesn’t work to try harder to make our dreams come to pass. The only hope is for something dramatic to change.

ACT 3: New Hope
            Along comes the resurrection.
            Jesus’ disciples are overwhelmed. The dreams they were certain were lost are suddenly back and better than ever! This isn’t simply the return of hope. This is a new hope. The disciples are moved from despair to vitality. Now, once again, all their wildest dreams are possible. New life, new connection with God, new hope beyond the grave. What an amazing twist!
            Have we found this same hope? We face the same disillusionment that hit the disciples on Friday night. We live in the long Saturday where dreams come to die. Do we have any hope that Sunday is coming?

            The resurrection not only signifies a new hope for the disciples, but for us also. While God never promises to fulfill our dreams of becoming famous and successful superstars, his promises are bigger and deeper than our greatest wishes. The resurrection of Jesus does not simply bring back our old lost hopes. It brings hope of something much bigger and better than we had ever dared to dream before.

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