The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic Podcast episode. To listen to the episode, click here.
Today is episode 70: What If?
Hello friends. By the time you’re hearing this episode we will be fully into the Easter season, so happy Easter! I hope the day was a wonderful one for you and yours, but as I speak to you today, we’re not quite there yet. It’s Holy Saturday, that in-between time when we’ve marked the death of Jesus but are not yet celebrating His resurrection. What a strange day this is.
We who have the benefit of knowing the end of the story know how it turns out, the miracle of life from death, the utter joy and surprise of those who loved Him, the running out to tell a waiting world that He is risen indeed.
But here on Holy Saturday, I find myself wondering what our world would look like if it hadn’t happened, if God came to Earth to teach and heal and lead and save us and the world’s reaction was to put God to death in the most hellish way imaginable, and then that was just… it. It’s not unthinkable, you know. In the history of humanity, we often choose Barabbas over Jesus, evil over good, and we put to death what is noble. We humans frequently choose what is vulgar over what is holy. We choose our own power or comfort over the welfare of others. Without the Father bringing Jesus back to life, this would be a very different story from the one we celebrate each year.
But if that was how it all unfolded, how would that change the course of the world from that time on, do you think? And how would it change you and me, and the ways in which we live?
I took a walk today and I saw resurrection mirrored in forsythia and tulips and crocuses, all of the plants that come up bold and colorful and gorgeous after the cold of the winter. These plants and flowering trees are resurrected each spring from a kind of death, and it’s so predictable year after year, that I wonder if we even see the miracle anymore. I look up and see the sun shining through the branches of trees, the wood springing to life with the most stunning array of flowers, most of which we’ll enjoy for the just shortest most magical season until they flutter down and make a magical carpet of petals under our feet. If you couldn’t tell, friend, spring is my favorite season. It’s beautiful, of course, and warmer and a relief, but mostly it’s my favorite because in the spring my spirit rises to the surface and whispers to me that every single plant and flower I see is telling the unlikely story of life that comes from death.
As it says in Psalm 19,
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Or when Jesus spoke about the lilies of the field, how Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they, and yet they’re here today and gone tomorrow, like us.
Resurrection is a story I find I need to seek and see and hear, over and over in my life, but what if it weren’t so?
We used to watch a Veggie Tales Easter special with the kids each year that touched on this idea – emphasizing the death and resurrection of Jesus as the cornerstone of all our hope. Because, if this is all there is, why would anyone ever risk their life for another? Why would we work as teachers or nurses or social workers or in other jobs where the whole point is to pour your life into other people for your whole career, for your whole life if there wasn’t something that lifted our eyes higher? Why would we ever share our resources or fight for the dignity or well-being of another person? Because if it all ended on Saturday for Jesus who is God, then it would follow that the same is true for us, and so how would we spend our lives then? How would we know the value of sacrificial love if we didn’t ever see it modeled for us, if it wasn’t somehow programmed in our spirits?
And what of our dear ones who’ve gone before us? What if we had no hope of seeing them again, how would that change our lives and how we live them, day after day? What if that Home that Jesus promised to make a way for us just wasn’t a part of our story, or part of theirs?
For those of us who call ourselves Christians, the death of Jesus is our saving and His rising is our hope. I know there are other paths, beautiful ones, and I’ve seen friends of different faiths and no faith at all pour out their lives into other people for motivations that are different from mine. But for me, knowing that the God who made me walked this same road of suffering and even death, and that He broke the laws of the nature that He made in order to rise again – all of this assures me that God is for us, even when we can’t see how. The cycle of life from death is a recognizable pattern we find in nature, in relationships, and in so many circumstances in every life all around us, if we have eyes to see. And it’s a foundational belief that if we profess it, really should change everything about how we live. As it says in the Scripture that has been tacked on my bathroom mirror for the last couple of years,
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
God does this, friends. He makes a way where there was no way, and He makes streams where the land was dry. He does this in your life and my life and everywhere in everything in time. The resurrection of Jesus was the most important thing that ever happened, because it made way for every impossible thing that would follow, for every hope we have, for our broken selves by grace to become our best selves in time, as He makes all things new.
As Paul said in his letter to one of the first groups of Christians,
“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
Well friend, what is the reason for the hope that you and I have? Do we take it for granted, like the forsythia branches we know will bloom yellow and bright at this time each year? Or is there a source of our hope, a reason to live life in the way we do: a cornerstone of what we believe and why, that colors our thoughts and our actions?
A life of faith is a journey, and our thoughts and beliefs about what really happened over 2000 years ago may fluctuate over time, but maybe this Easter season is a good opportunity for us to ponder and to ask God to help us to see and hear and know for ourselves. Because if that story, that God became a person who died for us and then rose again – if that story is true, well, that kind of love and mercy and power from a God who made you and me – that means that nothing is impossible.
Thanks so much for being with me today, friends. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. Thanks for sharing, rating, reviewing, and subscribing to this podcast as all of that helps more people to find us and I truly appreciate that, so thanks. If you’d like to support Raised Catholic financially by throwing a few bucks my way, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with lots of resources about how to engage with this topic more deeply for yourself, so do check all of that out. For now, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Jesus, thank you for the gift of yourself. In this Easter season, help us to receive you in a deeper way in our hearts, as we recognize resurrection all around us. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the wellspring of love that you pour out on each one listening and our dear ones too as you make all things new. In the name of Jesus, we pray.
Well, happy and blessed Easter season, friends. Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next time.
What if the Resurrection did not happen? How would that change our thoughts and the way we live, culture, or the world? Let’s use this as a frame for gratitude for the gifts that Easter does bring us.
If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram or on my blog. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me on my page at buymeacoffee.com!
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Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:
1. Easter Sunday Musings, from author Diana Butler Bass
2. Kids’ video: An Easter Carol (VeggieTales)
3. “Hope’s Song”, from An Easter Carol
4. Song: Ubi Caritas, by Durufle, performed by Kings College Choir
5. Song: Hallelujah Is Our Song, by Sarah Hart
6. Song: Christ is Risen, by Matt Maher
7. Journal Prompts: What do I believe about the death and resurrection of Jesus? How has that belief changed over time?How do those events change how I live today, or how the history of the world has progressed over time?
8. Take a Walk: notice the blooming flowers in the ground and on trees, take pictures, examine them. How is Creation speaking to you about how God works?
9. Children’s Book: The Three Trees, by Angela Elwell Hunt
10. The Resurrection of Jesus, by the Bible Project