One year, a church wanted to give the children a chance to decorate real eggs, the kind that require a bit of care. So we set up an Easter egg decorating party.
Some of the teenagers were tasked with preparing the cups of dye. I noticed one girl poking dejectedly at her line up of coloring cups. Sure enough, her little tablets of color were just sitting there looking lumpy in a half cup of water. “Mine won’t dissolve” she wailed. “They just sit there.” I went over the directions: “You put one of the tablets in a cup, you added a tablespoon of vinegar and….” “Well, no,” she said. “I didn’t add the vinegar.” “But it’s the vinegar that makes the tablet dissolve,” I said. “The color won’t break apart without it.” She just moaned. “I left the vinegar out. I don’t like the way vinegar smells.”
That young woman may have hit on an important Easter message. Without vinegar – without that key ingredient – the dye didn’t burst into useable, living color. It just sat there, lifeless. And life, without the resurrection, life without the living Christ, can be colorless and without purpose.
It’s not just resurrection after death we need. It is resurrection during life. Like Easter egg dye without vinegar, life without resurrection can be wasted and wasteful and wan.
We need that key ingredient found in the Easter story.
The gospel writer Luke tells us the story with little drama and few words. The women – who feature prominently in Luke’s telling – go to the tomb. They are carrying spices and ointments to care for the dead body of Jesus. When they get to the tomb, there is no body. They scarcely have time to take in this astonishing occurrence, when there are two men in some kind of brilliant unearthly array. Terrified, the women look away. The men say “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen. Remember how Jesus told you, he would be crucified. He told you that on the third day rise again.”
We can almost see the women lift their heads. Listening. Remembering. This is familiar to them. They remember Jesus told them this would happen. That in the midst of life there would be death and suffering, and in the midst of suffering and death, there would be resurrection. The women recognize this familiar but almost overlooked ingredient. They know resurrection is right there with them. They know – even though they don’t see Jesus – that the life force of God is in their midst and bringing about new life.
They grab hold of that missing ingredient, and they run out of that tomb and into life, with new purpose.
It’s the same for us. The saving life force of God is in the midst of us. The resurrection of Christ is right here among us. That’s the missing ingredient we must claim.
What happens to many of us – and, sometimes, to all of us – is that we do not like some quality of the ingredient. We catch a whiff of something sharp, pungent, dangerous, powerful and bold and we back away. We leave it out and wonder why we sit – flat and angry and trapped.
Perhaps we do not like the stink that is part of the story. We turn away from the idea that anyone – us or God – would have to go through death to get to life. We turn our noses at the guts and gore, of the story, the barbarism, the cruelty. Perhaps it frightens us or repulses us – and we think we know better. We seem to forget that the scent of blood is still part of the human story. God won’t turn away because there is rot in the world.
Then again, the idea that life comes out of death seems as improbable to us today as it did to those disciples long ago. We prefer life to be reliable, steady – without decay. We like life to be like our Easter eggs – sturdy, colorful, disposable, easily refilled. We want to know what’s inside, to control the expectations. No unexpected, unearthly surprises for us. This Jesus resurrected thing is too powerful to be stable, and we shy away.
And there are those of us who know the story well. We know that there is acid in our sweet savior. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, but he came to clean up the world as well, to scour it of its worst traits, and it takes a strong agent to redeem the world. The words of Jesus blistered the thin skin of the judgers of his day, and his words can still make us wince at the sting of his insight into our souls. Jesus stripped away the pretense and the posturing that denigrates the human soul and his spirit is still etching into us a commandment of love – not only for the lovely but love especially for the lowly. Jesus fomented with a vision of kingdom where no one is hungry, and no one is cast aside and if he had his way he’d be an irritant beneath the skin of any of us who hold back what we have to share.
It’s not surprising we draw back from a whiff of his powerful nature. You don’t take on this ingredient and remain unchanged.
It’s a risk. No doubt about it. Resurrection is a powerful force that won’t let us play it safe. The option though is staying put, sitting just as we are, slowly decaying away as we live- keeping all our glorious, meaningful, loving and beautiful possibility hidden away.
The best thing we can do is take a big deep inhaling breath of the air of that open empty tomb, and then let Jesus do his work.
Those women did. They got a lungful of resurrection, and they ran. They ran to tell the truth of life, new life, in all its sharpness, power and beauty.
Some would breathe it with them.
It is here. Here for us as it was for them. That key ingredient for blooming, vibrant, purposeful life. It’s out of our control. It alters us. We never know quite what our life will look like when we let resurrection come upon us. But, it seems always to be more vibrant, more sacred, more compassionate, more inviting than what was before.