By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell
Suggested Scripture Reading: John 3:16; John 11:25–26; John 20:1–31; Philippians 4:13; Matthew 28:20
I can still hear the Episcopal priest’s resounding voice as he bounded into the sanctuary with children carrying banners behind him as he shouted, “He is Risen!” and then the congregation responding with him as his voice boomed even louder, “The Lord is Risen Indeed!” Easter morning was a huge celebration at St. James’s Episcopal Church, in Richmond, Virginia, where my family attended church when I was a child. We, the congregation’s children, would collect money in advance of the Easter service in “mite boxes,” small cardboard coin banks, for the church’s missions. We would decorate the boxes with fresh flowers from our home gardens, and they would be placed in a huge cross frame in the sanctuary on Easter morning during the service so that they would decorate it as a blooming cross in honor of Christ and in representation of his resurrection. It was a glorious celebration with pipe organ music, the responsive readings, and joyous singing. I still think of those Easter mornings and feeling the palpable power of God’s Holy Spirit. I felt it from the moment we went into my mother’s garden and picked the flowers—I was so aware that there was great meaning in it all. Every Easter, even now, I think of those Easter mornings of my childhood.
In my current church, my memories of Easter are different but equally special. It’s the meaning of the ongoing reminders of Jesus and his resurrection that strike me most, though, maybe because of having some maturity in my spiritual walk : The words “Because He lives” over the entrance door of Elpis Christian Church in Maidens, Virginia, regularly remind me of the line from the hymn that starts with those words and finishes with “I can face tomorrow.” That’s the essence of it all: the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ’s resurrection, and all that that means to my life now and into eternity. Even the name of our church, “Elpis,” means “expectant hope”—not just a wish but a knowing that Christ will come again—that this earthly life is only a beginning of what is yet to be. Because of that hope and my belief in the words of Scripture, I know that I can face whatever I need to through Christ, who gives me the strength I need (Philippians 4:13).
Knowing of and believing in the resurrection of Jesus are essential to my Christian faith. I know that he suffered a brutal death for me, that he went to the cross willingly laying down his life so that my sins could be forgiven, the slate wiped clean of all ugliness and guilt because he paid the price. Because of his death on the cross, I can live in the presence of the Holy Trinity—the triune God can abide with me and I with him. Because of Jesus’s resurrection, I know that Jesus is the Christ, that he is who he said he was, and that because he lives, I can not only face whatever happens but also expect that he is with me now and always. That is something to celebrate!
Celebrate Easter with me. Enjoy the blessings of his love today and always. Happy Easter!