Entering into Easter

April 21, 2019

This is the day on which we gather to celebrate the emptiness of the tomb, the fulfillment of the promise that Jesus would rise and the deepening of the belief our world changed forever.  For most of us this day brings us together around family tables with pastel colors, fabulous meals and colored eggs.  We have been preparing, food baskets have been blessed and we have visited special stores, all to enhance the feast.  It is a great time to be alive.  It is a great time to pronounce Jesus is risen and there is a joy that enters the room when we gather.  We put aside things to bring out the best in others.

Every year in the Ouper house Easter preparations led my parents to the city to buy a special ham and we always had a night of coloring Easter eggs.  This annual event brought out creative competition among the Ouper clan.  I remember seeing the white egg in all of its potential and having to make a decision as to how I was going to color it.  Sometimes I would watch one of my siblings make a two tone egg with rings and observing this made me want to copy what they did.  The year we added masking tape as a design tool, lots of new possibilities were brought forth.  Every egg had so much potential and sometimes after we were done with them they looked terrible.  Adding too much color and adding layers without drying them first resulted in some eggs becoming a shade a brown and gray we never even knew existed.  Potential was covered by our actions of dipping and painting.  The outcome never seemed to be as great as the dream.  And the next morning, we would all wonder who created the ugly egg.  Each year we all denied the ugliest as our creation.  As we enter into Easter, the emptiness of the tomb invites us to find our identity in the paradox, no matter how many layers of color we have added, no matter what we have done.  God knows the potential from which we all started.  God knows the purity from which we all began.  God knows our choices may not have been what we thought and we might even have remorse the next morning, but it doesn’t change the starting point.  God sees only our potential and died to set us free from the layers of sin we add to our lives.

The tomb was a cold and dark place that surrounded the Savior and embraced His dead body.  The fullness of His earthy life was over.  But God never let go of the potential and the reason for which Jesus came into the world.  He came to free us from eternal death.  The women, the disciples and Mary Magdalene, went to see the place of death and found it empty.  It is in this experience, where the emptiness held the fullness of hope completely, our Easter journey begins.  Only in the emptiness of the tomb can the fullness of life be celebrated.  God offers us this fullness today and every day of our lives.  It begins with the death not only of our Savior, but of the disappointments within ourselves and others.  So often we like the decorated egg, but we may not feel great about the outcome of what we have done in the name of the many choices of our lives.  God is saying to us—I see your potential, you are loved and there is new life for you.  Sometimes we have pushed God out because of the time constraints of our lives and God is saying—enter into that emptiness, I see your potential, you are loved, there is new life for you.  Sometimes we feel we can never repair the damage.  God is saying —enter that emptiness, I see your potential, I gave my Son to die for you, you are worth it, you are loved and you are redeemed.

Easter is about entering into the emptiness; the fullness of new life begins there.  This day is not just about how we enter into Easter, it is also about how Easter enters into us.  I invite you to take the time to walk into both aspects of the journey.  In the next reflection on the opposite page we will embrace the other aspect of the journey.  All paths lead not only to the emptiness of the tomb and the imperfections of our lives, but also they lead to what God is doing with all of it.

Have a wonderful walk with the Lord and may He show you the power of His risen life.

Reverend  John J. Ouper



Happy Easter!  If we allow Easter to enter into us, it is life-changing.  It invites us to a deep reality beyond our imagination. To allow Easter and its power to enter into us, we must go back to the source of the divine love that is contained within the historical events that changed the world forever.  The Son of God was crucified and put to death in a cruel way.  He was humiliated in front of others.  Yet, as His sacrificial death claimed His body, the purpose and the plan was revealed.  It is allowing this revelation to enter into our thoughts, minds, hearts and souls that allows potential and power to change our lives forever.  To begin this process, we must begin with an honest assessment of who we are.  Admitting we are sinners is the right step.  Although this is not always easy, when we do, we add ourselves into the entire assembly of everyone in church, everyone out of church and everyone who ever existed, with the exception of one.  That one is Jesus.  After admitting sin, we realize we have polluted the message of being a follower of Jesus and missed opportunities to be more loving, more forgiving and we have failed.  Now you might not want to read anymore.  Who wants to read about what we are not?  I ask you to please read on.  Allowing Easter to enter into us is allowing the lights of pure love to consume, embrace and surround all of those feelings.  This is the Lord, this is what He did for us.  We are no longer defined by our sin.  God sees our potential and longs for us to return to the source of His love for us.  At all of the celebrations of the liturgy we renewed our Baptismal promises.  We as the people of God returned to the source.  The day we were Baptized we were claimed by God, we were called chosen by Him forever, no matter what we have done.  Letting this reality in brings us back to the source of divine love.  We gather to allow this love of God to embrace us, surround us and become one with our journey in faith.  That to me is amazing.  God longs for us this much and He never loses sight of our potential.  He defines us by His love.  Only when we can admit we have messed up can He put the pieces back together and He longs to do so with joy.

A few months ago my travels took me to Altus, Oklahoma for the Baptism of a family member.  I spent the night by Midway Airport because I had to catch an extremely early flight.  As I grabbed a burger at McDonald’s close to my hotel, I saw a woman who appeared to be homeless enter the seating area.  I was ready to reach out and give her some money for a sandwich, but she took her bag and placed it on the seat next to hers.  She then proceeded to take a few pamphlets out of the bag and put up a little sign at the end of the table.  It had just one word on it, JESUS.  She sat there and waited to see if anyone would come to visit her table.  As I looked at her, I was amazed at her boldness.  I wasn’t sure I was brave enough to do that or if our local establishments would appreciate it.  After awhile she packed up her things and left.  At first I was amazed at her courage, but now I think about her face.  Hers was the face of Jesus just sitting in the booth across from mine.  I never got up to say hello, nor did I get up to encourage her.  I just sat in awe of her courage.  Easter will enter into us, when we cross over the aisle, when we look into the eyes of another, embrace the pain and suffering, and see the potential.  She saw the potential of that space and time to have an encounter with anyone and everyone who would come and visit.

My prayer today is that we will cross the aisle and let Jesus in; that we will allow His love to conquer whatever holds us back.  I pray we may move past all of our preconceptions, answers, expectations and embrace the source.  Easter will enter in.  He loves us that much.  On the opposite side of the page is the other part of the journey.  Entering in and allowing ourselves to be entered are two sides of the same coin.  I pray that this Easter we can experience both.

Father John