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Symbol of Suffering and Death Offers New Life

Posted on March 22nd, 2005

I can feel it in the air, in my face, in my creaky bones.

It’s still cool, even wintry-like at times, but change is happening – slowly, quietly, surely.

Around our house, daffodils and tulips force their way through the crusty mulch, testing conditions, deciding whether to thrust forth with confidence or retreat to whence they came.

Fat robins cavort in our yard, breaking forth in song one minute, shivering the next.

The calendar declares it, the great outdoors seconds it – Spring is in the air.

Indoors, an amaryllis plant that I potted at Thanksgiving is starting to put on a Technicolor display. I start one each November in hopes of the large colorful blooms cheering up the often bleak month of January.

This time, nothing seemed to happen in spite of lavishing extra attention on the dormant bulb. Christmas came and went with no indication of green shoots or a flower stalk imminent.

Several times I came close to pitching the stubborn plant, then recanted. Apparently the contrary plant decided to give up growing for Lent, only to strut its stuff for Easter.

Stubborn flowering plants act a lot like people, but we shouldn’t give up on them either.

I also purchase an Easter lily each year, enjoy its beauty and fragrance, then plant it outside and watch for it to spring up again the following year.

the amarllyis An obstinate amaryllis at the Bishop residence waited until Easter to break forth with joy.
Photo by Jim Bishop

Easter weekend comes especially early this year, at a time when the weather remains unpredictable and uncertain.

It’s a time of promise, of newness, of renewal and hope. The long dark nights and desolation of winter are passing. But wintertime’s hibernation and dormancy spell is necessary in order for new life to burst forth again.

This old guy still looks forward to getting an Easter basket, joining with other family members in searching indoors and outside for the wicker container laden not so much with chocolate goodies as with small, useful everyday items. Finding this hidden treasure is half the fun.

Easter encompasses all that life is meant to be in its fullness.

In contrast, humanity seems intent on pursuing a path that leads to destruction – inflicting pain and suffering on each other to get what we want or to impose our will on others, whether on an individual level or broader scope.

I think of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and especially in Iraq, now two years old and counting.

Does Iraq have any connection with Easter?

I think so.

The Easter story is a violent one, full of trauma, injustice and death. One ends joyfully, triumphantly, the other . . . well, the verdict has yet to be returned.

We can use violent means to try to bring about change, between people and between countries, but it won’t change people’s minds or hearts. Only genuine love can do that.

Boundless love, reconciliation, life beyond the grave – that’s the message of Easter, if we are open to hearing and accepting it.

But, love our enemies? Here and now? Maybe the person next to you that you can’t stand, that’s a possibility. But our perceived enemies half way around the world? How absurb, even though the One who Easter is all about called us to do precisely that.

The cross, used by the powerful to suck the life out of the powerless, became the instrument that changed the world.

In the shadow of that empty cross, we can fully live – now and forever.

Jim Bishop is public information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. He can be contacted at bishopj@emu.edu.

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