Muriel Rukeyser wrote: “The Universe is made of stories, not atoms.” And The Greatest Story Ever Told concludes with the message: “He is not here, for He is risen!” There is no word greater or grander than that. The worst that life could throw at Him (or at us) was not enough. Jesus is bigger than death. God wins. Life wins. We win.
Those of you who come to Marble Church have heard me quote Richard Lischer who said: “When Jesus emerged from the tomb, all his friends came out with him!” Jesus made that very promise, of course: “And I, if I be lifted up, shall draw all others unto myself.” What a word of comfort that is for any of us who have ever suffered loss. For example, I know where both my parents are buried. But, I also know they are not there. They are where Christ is. When He emerged from the tomb, they came out with him. God wins. Life wins. We win.
For those who have ever experienced temporary defeats (that did not seem “temporary” at all), the Easter Story is a word of encouragement and hope. A friend of mine spent several years in a difficult, go-nowhere job. All the while he continued to apply for work elsewhere, but every door seemed bolted shut. At last he was contacted by a friend who offered him a position with his company. It didn’t sound like a “career path” position, but he figured it had to be an improvement over where he was. So, he would get by on that job until an actual career opportunity came along. Some time after beginning his new work, he discovered a sense of joy he had never known previously. He said he awakes early each morning anxious to get to the business, and he gladly stays late when asked. He enjoys his co-workers, the environment, the shared goals and mutual support. He said: “Thank God no one else hired me before this came along. I felt trapped for so long, but at last the stone was rolled away.” What great Easter imagery! That which held him captive did not have ultimate power. Joy had been delayed, but it could not be forever defeated. The stone was rolled away, and he emerged into a new place that filled him with meaning and happiness. God wins. Life wins. We win.
Another friend went through a serious and life-threatening accident. After time in ICU followed by several surgeries, she entered into a long period of physical rehab. The journey from injury to recovery took over a year – often two steps forward and one step back. She is a businesswoman who is used to moving at an accelerated pace. Suddenly, though, such was no longer possible. Instead she was relegated to waiting, lingering with pain, and barely inching forward. Initially it was frustrating, an understandably so. But now she is quick to say: “I learned life lessons in that experience that I doubt I would ever have learned otherwise. I learned how to be patient, how to celebrate small victories, how to appreciate acts of kindness from others, how to pray, and how to prioritize. Having almost lost my life, during the long days of recovery I reflected on the people and things that really matter and how I had gotten everything all out of order. I hated the pain, but I have discovered a whole new life because of what I went through.” Again, hers is an Easter story – the story of dying to one kind of existence and being born to (in her words) “a whole new life.” God wins. Life wins. We win.
“The Universe is made of stories, not atoms.” And by far the greatest Story is the one about Easter, about victory born of defeat, hope that eradicates despair, the very best overcoming the very worst, and life that steps out of death’s empty tomb to live forever. And so we sing our praises to the Risen Jesus. And we know down deep that because of His Resurrection, God wins. Life wins. We win.