“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  — 1st Peter 1:6-9  

By Rev. Mike Graef

What is Easter? Lots of wonderful joy is spread around at Easter time. Colored eggs, chocolate bunnies, lots of fresh flowers, Easter lilies, Easter bonnets, dress up time, putting on your Sunday best, bright sunny Sunday morning, going off to church together. Maybe a big meal afterwards? Some of that we’re not going to get to do this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Are you bummed? I sure am. But I’m super proud that we’re doing everything we can to keep people safe, so that we can go on to have many more glorious Easters — and with no one dying before their time. Easter says life. Victorious, risen life. So really what better way could there be to show the world we are Easter people than to stand for life — and be disciplined and courageous and stronger than this invisible enemy.

The real Easter is not dependent on any of the stuff of Easter. It inspired the stuff, but it doesn’t need the stuff. Easter doesn’t need church buildings or our favorite Easter songs, choir, bell choir, or even a pancake breakfast. “Every day to us is Easter with its resurrection song.”  (United Methodist Hymnal #304) The real Easter comes direct from God to you and I. Potentially every day. 

The real Easter is a revelation. They came to the tomb and his body was not there. A witness was there instead: “he is not here, he is risen!” Easter for us is also our own witness, a personal witness that we have. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, gently assists us to have a direct experience of God’s presence. The Holy Spirit and the Risen Son are the same person. God speaks his presence, and it is the living Christ’s presence. He speaks through scripture, through nature, often times through silent prayer.

What is a direct experience of God’s presence like? It doesn’t come with information. It is simply the presence of Christ within your heart and mind and spirit. And for that moment of God’s speech within, you are not distracted. You are not lost in thought, you are not unaware of God’s presence. There is love, and joy, hope and peace. That’s Easter. Christ is Risen and YOU are a witness. Faith is not an effort, it is simply an acknowledgement: “I’m being spoken to, yes I hear you Lord, yes I see you Lord. Yes!” 

Years ago, when I began to experience the risen Christ I wrote a song (text below). It quotes from: Luke 9:23, Romans 12:1-2, and Isaiah 9:1-4. My way of experiencing the risen Christ had become the way of Luke 9:23: first self-denial, then picking up my cross daily, and finally walking with Jesus. Following him. Putting this together with the dedication prayer from Romans 12, and the great good news of Isaiah 9 gave me a path to walk in those early years of my true commitment to follow Jesus. It still blesses me today, it is still my path. We’ll sing it sometime. It rocks, of course. I used to break all manner of guitar strings playing it! 

It’s so sad we can’t gather together on Sunday mornings right now. But the very best of Easter will come to you right where you are! You will not be left out. “Yes I hear you Lord, yes I see you. Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed!” Can’t wait till we get together again in person! Until then, find your own witness. And be safe and well, and in touch, call, write!

“Lord Write This Prayer Upon My Heart” by Mike Graef

Lord write this prayer upon my heart:
“The cross gives me a place to start.
Accept me now oh Lord I pray, a sacrifice to you today.” (Hey hey)

1. Land of Zebulun, the people in the dark, have seen a great light!
2. Land of Naphtali, death shadowed is a land, has seen a great light!
3. Thou hast increased joy. Thou hast made great joy. And burden’s bar Thou breaks!

Rev. Mike Graef serves as pastor of Spokane Valley United Methodist Church in Spokane, Washington. This post originally appeared in the church’s April newsletter.

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