The Deeper Magic

Mark 16:1-8

Recently my grandsons, Kate, and I saw a film version of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe. As you may recall, the story describes the adventures of four children in Narnia, an enchanted land lying just beyond the wardrobe.

Occupied by an evil queen, the once verdant Narnia is now desolate; a place where it is always winter, but never Christmas.

I think we all know that evil can be seductive; we can be attracted to things that will eventually harm us, and one of the boys, Edmund, becomes entranced by the queen’s magic. As the story goes, he eventually is rescued and repents of his misbehavior. But, there are times when you can never fully escape the impact of the past. Despite his new freedom, according to the ancient magic, he still belongs the evil empress, and she wants him back. He can be only liberated if another takes his place, and amazing as it is, the regal Aslan, honest and pure, stands in for him, dying on the altar that he may be freed. The pain and humiliation Aslan experiences are gruesome, and with his death, Aslan’s followers believe all hope is lost; they must go into battle without their leader, out manned and out gunned.

And yet, unknown to everyone, including the evil empress, there is a deeper magic: when someone who’s innocent sacrifices for the guilty, time and history are transformed, the guilty are freed and the innocent sacrifice returns to life.

Lewis was of course retelling the wondrous story of Easter, the astounding and impossible resurrection of Jesus, a story almost too wonderful to believe, then in the first century, later to the children who read the Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, and to us, the parents and grandparents of children today. We know all the bad stuff – the pain and betrayal – that’s the daily news: violence at schools, rise in bullying and hate over the past year, bombs in Syria, national leaders threatening nuclear war, and the addictions that imprison us and our loved ones. Darkness often appears victorious; nothing will ever change; and we are condemned to hate, death, and destruction.

This is exactly how Jesus’ first followers felt – the cross, the darkness, and the interminably long Saturday, where all was winter, with no hope for spring.

And then something happens: a new day comes, the sun rises again, new life bursts forth. What can’t happen – the impossible possibility – does! The prison doors fly open, the sinner finds grace, the addict finds recovery, the betrayer finds a new lease on life, and we trust our deceased friends and the reality of our own mortality to God’s love.

For several years, we lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In nearby Lititz, the home of the flagship church of the Moravian brotherhood, something amazing happens every Easter. Moravian brass bands gather at the cemetery and on the street corners and play hymns of celebration beginning at 4:00 a.m. For those hearty Moravian souls, it is right to gather at graveyard – because the graveyard represents everything we’re afraid of – the reality of aging, death, sin, addiction, violence, destitution, grief, and loss. As they march out of the graveyard, they affirm Paul’s message; “Death, where is your sting? Death where is your victory?” And, with faith, they assert that death, the last enemy, is defeated in Christ’s resurrection. Christ the Lord is risen today!

Now, you can’t force a resurrection – it comes as an unexpected miracle, when we’re ready to throw in the towel, and surrender to the powers of darkness, violence, addiction, and sin; but you can be open to it. You can practice resurrection, as poet-farmer Wendell Berry asserts. You can speak for life in a world of death, you can speak hope to the hopeless, you can confront the forces of death with a liberating message, and you can trust that Christ is alive, and will have the final word for all of us, and that word is Love, that word is Victory, that Word is grace, that word is healing, that word is home.

Those first followers of Jesus didn’t expect a resurrection, and we may not either, given the realities of war, violence in schools, environmental destruction, and racism, not to mention our own apathy, fear, and sin; but I am here to say that God makes a way where there is no way, and that we can be proclaimers of love and life, bringing joy to the sorrowful and healing to the broken, every day….Christ the Lord is risen today!

Resurrection does not lead to passivity, but action. Christ’s victory over death tells us – as it did those first followers – to get out on the streets, to reach out to the vulnerable, to sacrifice for the planet’s future and the next seven generations to come – it tells us that the moral arc leans toward justice, and it says get on board; and so that motley, imperfect, frightened group of disciples, both women and men, changed the world by resurrection…..this Easter, let us affirm love is stronger than death, hope greater than hate, and life more lasting than fear….let us be part of the deep magic of resurrection.