The Hope of Easter

Happy Easter morn! The sun is trying to make a difference in the early chill air here in northern Illinois. It’s a hopeful sign.

(These tulip images are from a Holland, Michigan, visit a couple of years ago. No tulips here yet.)

Yesterday while running errands I had an old favorite CD playing in my car. (Do I betray my age to admit I’ve got lots of beloved CDs in my car?) When this song came on, my ears perked up at the words and I pondered how it speaks to Easter, even though I bet that wasn’t its original intent.

This is Chris Rice, whose musicality and lyrics I have loved for 20 years. And this is “The Final Move,” recorded in 2005. The song relates love, loss, questions, and hope … just when we think there’s no hope left. Which is pretty much what I imagine Jesus’s disciples thought when he, their hope for the future and for their very lives, was killed on the cross.

Lyrics are here; a link to a YouTube video is below.


“The Final Move” 
by Chris Rice

Saw an old guy today
Staring long at a chess game
Looked like it was half-played
Then his tear splashed between
The bishop and the king, oh
He turned his face to mine
I saw the Question in his eyes
I shrugged him half a smile and walked away
It made me sad, and it made me think
And now it makes me sing what I believe

It was love that set this fragile planet rolling
Tilting at our perfect twenty-three
Molecules and men infused with holy
Finding our way around the galaxy
And Paradise has up and flown away for now
But hope still breathes and truth is always true
And just when we think it’s almost over
Love has the final move
Love has the final move

Heard a young girl sing a song
To her daughter in her pale arms
Walking through a rainstorm
“Because you’re here my little girl
It’s gonna be a better world,” oh
She turned her face to mine
I saw the Answer in her eyes
I shrugged her half a smile and walked away
It made me smile, and it made me think
And now it makes me sing what I believe

It was love that set our fragile planet rolling
Tilting at our perfect twenty-three
Molecules and men infused with holy
Finding our way around the galaxy
And Paradise has up and flown away for now
But hope still breathes and truth is always true
And just when we think it’s almost over
Love has the final move
Love has the final move

(Something right went very wrong
But love has been here all along)

Over on YouTube, Jeff Ponke put together some beautiful images with The Final Move. I highly recommend listening and watching.

“‘In this world you will have trouble,’ said Jesus.
‘But take heart! I have overcome the world.'”
— John 16.33

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
— Romans 5.8

“God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death,
because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”
— Acts 2.24

“The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.”
— John 1.5


Great and Holy Saturday

I’m trying to buckle down, slice up some wool sweaters, and get to work today. But my mind is distracted.

This day, this in-between day that sits after Good Friday and before Easter morning, always makes me somber. What took place that Saturday before the original Easter, the day of Jesus’ resurrection? We don’t know, and whatever it is is likely beyond my earth-bound comprehension anyway. But there is a poem that has moved me since I first read it in my 20s with one possibility of that particular Saturday’s events.

The poet is Madeleine L’Engle, also author of the much better known A Wrinkle in Time. She wrote this poem in response to a fresco in the Church of the Chora in Istanbul. She says in The Irrational Season (1977):

“I stood there, trembling with joy, as I looked at this magnificent painting of the harrowing of hell. In the center is the figure of Jesus striding through hell, a figure of immense virility and power. With one strong hand he is grasping Adam, with the other, Eve, and wresting them out of the power of hell.”

By Gunnar Bach Pedersen (Self-photographed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Great and Holy Saturday”
by Madeleine L’Engle

Death and damnation began with my body still my own,
began when I was ousted from my place,
and many creatures still were left unnamed.
Gone are some, now, extinct, and nameless,
as though they had never been.
In hell I feel their anxious breath, see their accusing eyes.
My guilt is heavier than was the weight of flesh.

I bear the waste of time spent in recriminations
(“You should not have…” “But you told me…” “Nay, it was you who…”).
And yet I knew my wife, and this was good.
But all good turned to guilt. Our first-born
killed his brother. Only Seth gave us no grief.
I grew old, and was afraid; afraid to die, even knowing
that death had come, and been endured, when we
were forced to leave our home, the one and only home a human man
has ever known. The rest is exile.
Death, when it came, was no more than a dim
continuation of the exile. I was hardly less a shadow
than I had been on earth, and centuries
passed no more slowly than a single day.

I was not prepared to be enfleshed again,
reconciled, if not contented, with my shadow self.
I had seen the birth of children with all its blood and pain
and had no wish ever to be born again.

The sound, when it came, was louder than thunder,
louder than the falling of a mountain,
louder than the tidal wave crashing down the city walls,
stone splitting, falling, smashing.
The light was brutal against my shaded eyes,
blinding me with brilliance. I was thousands 
of years unaccustomed to the glory.
Then came the wrench of bone where bone had long been dust.
The shocking rise of dry bones, the burning fleshing,
the surge of blood through artery and vein
was pain as I had never known that pain could be.
My anguished scream was silenced as my hand was held
in a grip of such authority I could not even try to pull away.
The crossed gates were trampled by his powerful feet
and I was wrenched through the chasm
as through the eye of the hurricane.
And then—O God—he crushed me
in his fierce embrace. Flesh entered flesh;
bone, bone. Thus did I die, at last.
Thus was I born. 
Two Adams became one.
And in the glory Adam was.
Nay, Adam is.

Perhaps this will carry your imagination—or heart—to considerations beyond bunnies, baskets and eggs, sweet though they may be, toward the immense power and astonishing purpose of the original Easter weekend.

(I’m so grateful to artists, writers, and musicians who can help me with this. Tomorrow I have one more to share! For earlier Easter posts, see here, here, and here.)

Easter and the Good Shepherd

Happy Easter to each of you!  In our family, we greet each other Easter morning with: “He is risen!  He is risen indeed!”  I wish I could share my fresh-baked hot cross buns with you for breakfast. (Except — oops — they are bare, as I forgot to slice the crosses on the top of this batch.)

Easter and Good Friday and The Green Sheep have all made me think about the references to sheep in the Bible.  There are many.  For the past 8 months, I’ve been studying the book of Isaiah with a great group of women — a tremendous study.  There’s lots about sheep there, a bit of which I shared in my Good Friday post.

(Photo by mehmetgoren)

Last year we studied the book of John, another wildly wonderful book.  I remembered some talk about shepherds there, so I went back to find it.  In chapter 10, Jesus used some very familiar “people in the neighborhood” (a la Sesame Street, Hebrew style) to teach something about himself.  He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10.11).

(Photo by Jim Richardson)

This reminds me of the 23rd psalm, where David describes the day-to-day shepherding care he received from the Lord.  (And I think it’s cool that David wrote from what he knew, as he was a shepherd before becoming king.)  “The Lord is my shepherd,” he wrote, “I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake”  (Psalm 23.1-3).

So how does this tie to Easter?  Well, Jesus did an extraordinary thing in laying down his life to conquer sin (Good Friday) and then in rising to conquer death (Easter).   Today he LIVES as a guiding, care-taking, restoring shepherd…to those lost sheep like me who call on him.

Good Friday and Straying Sheep

Last year, while visiting a church, my husband and I saw this unusual cross.  It has nails pounded into it to write out an incredible passage from Isaiah.  It’s about Jesus.

It says:  “He was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”  –Isaiah 53.5-6.

(Photo by Daniele Sartori)

So that’s what happened on “Good Friday.”  I am one of those straying sheep and am so grateful that Jesus took the cost of my sin upon himself.  Seriously.  By his wounds I have been healed.  It’s more than I can comprehend and yet I am so thankful!