Dancing On Ashes

Bent, but not broken, we are year-round Easter people.

by Casey Sigmon

It was one of my favorite sermons to date, and it involved few if any words.

My toddler, too restless to sit patiently through the Lenten sermon, pulled me from the pew. We had never wandered to the garden behind the clear glass cross before, though I have spent countless services at Vine Street watching how the light filters through it, watching trees birth, bloom, and then drop leaves with the seasons. The combination of the warm weather and a few early birds in the form of green shoots and brave pansies lured too by the warm weather beckoned the toddler outside.

She ran immediately to face the stone angel watching over the garden. “Hello, angel!” her sweet voice pierced the silence. Then she began to sing a song I have sung over her since she was an infant, “All night, all day, angels watching over me my Lord…” traipsing on fallen, dead leaves, as though dancing in the midst of the ashes of a summer that had come and gone months ago.

She approaches a stone garden cross then, “Hello Jesus!” she says, then gives it a kiss.

Our journey to Easter began in the midst of ashes of verdant palm branches from a spring long ago… Remember you are dust… and it ends with an empty tomb, a wounded yet risen Christ, healed but not cured, a message that God can transform and transfigure the most heinous events that deal death in this world into radiant, radical, life—resurrection.

It’s hard to comprehend resurrection from down here. It’s hard to imagine the return of our beloved, radiant in the Eternal Love of Christ, when the season of their physical presence seems so long ago.

It’s hard to imagine how an instrument of execution, the Roman cross, becomes a symbol of devotion and love, so treasured that a child could stoop to kiss it rather than run from it in fear. But that’s what resurrection did to that accomplice of death.

It’s hard to comprehend resurrection from down here because so few things seem to be beyond our brilliant comprehension, our safe expectations. But thankfully, resurrection remains just out of our limited comprehension.

Easter people. We are Easter people all year-round. In a world prone to cynicism, we proclaim hope. In a world pursuing happiness, we proclaim joy. In a world searching for cures, we promise healing.

As Christians, we are not excluded from experiencing pain and loss and tragedy in life. Rather, through the Resurrected One, we are promised to be given strength of heart and presence, through the beloved community here and above and around, to live in the face of death, to find a new form and pattern for living when all seems lost.  To be resurrection walking and talking on earth, healed in spite of death from within, by the one who lured a young girl from her deathbed, who called Lazarus from the grave, who surprised the women mourning in the garden…. By the power of the Holy Breath, we catch ours when it’s knocked out of us—resurrection.

And like Mary mourning in the garden before her beloved’s tomb, we cannot believe that we find the strength to dance once again. Resurrection finds us and we leap to our feet, traipse through the ashes, and sing a new song. We are Easter people all year-round.