Reflection April 23, 2017
The Daffodils Still Bloom!
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
Each year, as Easter looms brightly on the horizon of Lent, I wonder if this will be the year when I run out of words, if this will be the year when I dust off one of my old Easter sermons, if this will be the year when Easter no longer excites me. But, no, my worries evaporated as Easter dawned in the darkness of my heart and in the shadowy cave of my tomb-like soul.
When, at what time, did the Father raise Jesus his Son, from death to resurrected life? The quick answer is: we don’t know! All we know from the Gospels is that sunrise brought an empty tomb. But an ancient tradition has it that the time of the Resurrection was 3 in the morning.
It seems God works best in the deepest part of the night - in what my beloved Beth called the wee hours. She’d often be up in the wee hours, sipping hot chocolate and writing in her prayer journals.
Recently, I’ve begun getting up in the wee hours. I sip hot chocolate and sit in my enclosed porch, praying and straining to hear the voice of God and the voice of Beth. And, yes, I understand if you think your pastor is cracking up!
But we need to know that God is always in conversation with us - especially in stillness - especially in darkness. Easter is God speaking to us in such a deep and unforgettable way that even the deaf among us hear God’s voice.
Easter is the Father’s answer to the horrors of Good Friday. But Easter is much more than that! Easter is the Father’s abiding answer to every one of us imprisoned in the frail flesh of life, imprisoned in the long history of human corruption and never-ending evil.
Easter is the Father’s abiding answer to every one imprisoned in prejudice, imprisoned in the unsatisfying pursuit of pleasure, power, and privilege.
Easter is God Almighty’s pledge that what happened to Jesus Christ on that first Easter morn will happen to each of us. Easter is God Almighty’s promise that the victory given to Jesus Christ is our victory as well. We, too, will be resurrected body and soul.
I’m mystified why this core Christian belief is so seldom proclaimed - so seldom preached. Heaven is not our final home. Heaven is but a way station. We will not spend the expanse of eternity in heaven. No, we will be resurrected body and soul. We will then live out the endless joys of eternal life on a renewed, healed, heavenly earth.
This message is the message God Almighty proclaims every Easter. Why do we Christians have such a hard time hearing this message?
When I sat down this past week to write my Easter sermon, my head and my heart were filled to over-flowing. Words just tumbled out! And the truth is - if I preached everything God placed on my heart for Easter - we’d be in church for a very long time. And, truth is, I don’t wish to be fired on Easter Sunday!
So let me bring two final Easter images. The first comes from the enigmatic title of this sermon: “The Daffodils Still Bloom.” Daffodils are among my favorite flowers, partially because they come so early in Spring and also because I’m not allergic to them as I am to Easter lilies.
But, more importantly, not long after Beth and I moved into our house - a block and a half from this beloved church - our master gardener, Penny Lord, came over and spent hours with Beth, planting flowers.
Next to the side door where I always come and go, there’s a small garden in which Penny and Beth placed many daffodils. After the soul-crushing events of last summer and fall, part of me wondered if those daffodils would again bloom. But, of course, as perennials, they bloomed. And I find comfort and no small measure of consolation in this: the daffodils still bloom!
Finally, let me bring up one of the songs I regularly listen to when I work out at the gym: Unchained Melody. Most of us are probably familiar with the popular 1965 version, sung by Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers. What we may not know is that the original was written and sung in a 1955 movie titled “Unchained” - hence the title of the song. The movie is about a man imprisoned far from his wife and family.
Is this not a metaphor for each of us? Are we not all imprisoned in one way or another? Yet Easter promises there will come that sacred day when each of us will be finally and forever unchained.
This past Thursday, listening to the lyrics, I was blind-sided by the words. I could not contain my tears: “Oh, my love, my darling. I’ve hungered for your touch, a long, lonely time. Time goes by so slowly and time can do so much - are you still mine? … I need your love. I need your love. God speed your love to me … Lonely rivers sigh, wait for me, wait for me. I’ll be coming home, wait for me.”
Beth told me numerous times in her final weeks: “When you cross over, you will need to woo me again. You will need to win me again!” I eagerly look forward to this sweet challenge!
But last Thursday, Unchained Melody, hit me so hard because it dawned on me that not only is my heart and soul singing these lyrics to my beloved Beth; my heart and soul are also singing these lyrics to God Almighty: “Oh, God, my darling, I’ve hungered for your touch a long, lonely time. Dear God, I need your love … God, speed your love to me!”
Our only home is in the spacious heart of our loving God; a heart broken wide-open on Good Friday; a heart that eagerly waits for us to come home!
I lost any lingering fear of death last October 19. This Easter I’ve come to understand the deeper reason why!
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643