Easter an affirmation of the possibility of new life.
Much ink has been spilled recently over the meaning of Christ's passion. While the events leading up to the crucifixion are an essential chapter in the life of Christ, by no means should they have the last word. For in the wee hours of tomorrow morning, Christians will arise to the amazing possibility of new life.
One joy of living in the Northwest is the chance to hike in beautiful temperate rainforests. I revel in the towering trees and the earthy, cool smell of damp moss. Many people would be surprised to discover, as I was, that nestled in the forests is a powerful image of the meaning of the resurrection.
When a grand old tree topples over in the forest, as it decays, a number of small saplings may root themselves deeply in its rich, crumbling trunk. The tree or stump that gives rise to these new saplings is called a "nurse log," which is essential to the ongoing health of the forest ecosystem.
New life tenaciously taking hold where at first there appears to be only death and decay - that is the meaning of the resurrection. On Easter, Christians around the world celebrate the power of life over death. The women who discovered the empty tomb on Easter came prepared for death - they carried spices to anoint a lifeless body. Instead, incredibly, they were confronted by the possibility of new life.
Easter is not about a resuscitated body or the grief-stricken visions of Jesus' followers still reeling from the brutal events of the crucifixion. For Christians, Easter is the ultimate affirmation that new life arises out of what was thought to be the finality of death.
When my friend Albert discovered that he had AIDS, like the women who peered
into Jesus' tomb early on Easter morning, he expected only decay and death. A deeply spiritual man, Albert struggled mightily to comprehend his diagnosis in the light of his faith. For a time, the bitter odor of "why" filled his nostrils.
But slowly, miraculously, Albert looked death in the eye - and chose life. In the midst of his illness, Albert opted for the power of love, and paradoxically experienced new life. Relationships were healed. Hurts were mended. Resurrection was transformed from a theological concept to an experience of discovering an empty tomb on Easter morning.
For me, resurrection is the most empowering aspect of the Christian faith. The resurrection gives me the strength to nurture new life in the stagnant parts of my life. The resurrection gives me the courage to embrace the radical love embodied in the life and ministry of Jesus. Resurrection frees me to live fully - here and now.
Easter is a celebration that death need not have the last word. Signs of new life abound!
The Rev. Jeremy Hajdu-Paulen is the United Methodist campus minister at the Wesley Foundation at the University of Oregon. This column is coordinated by Two Rivers Interfaith Ministries, a network of faith communities in the Eugene-Springfield area. For more information, call 344-5693.