(Ezekiel 36:26, 37:9, Matthew 26:1-8, Colossians 3:1-4 [Message translation])
Darkness sought to overcome the light But Christ is risen! Halleluiah! Fear sought to cloud God’s peace But Christ is risen! Halleluiah! Hate sought to destroy love But Christ is risen! Halleluiah! Death sought to triumph over life But Christ is risen! Halleluiah!
Today, this Easter morning, that’s our cry, “Halleluiah!” It’s the kind of thing you can only sing out from the heart, cry out from the gut.
But don’t forget that we were crying out something different last week, during Palm Sunday. We were crying out something else throughout Holy Week and all the troubles it brings us through – we were crying out “Hosanna!” “Hosanna!” Which means “Help us! Save us!” Help us! Save us! To get to the Halleluiahs of Easter, we must pass through the Hosannas of Holy Week.
A caterpillar can’t become a butterfly without first passing through the Chrysalis. When a caterpillar builds a Chrysalis around itself, that’s a very courageous thing to do,because enclosed in that Chrysalis the entire body of that caterpillar breaks down. It liquifies. So that Chrysalis can look like a kind of tomb, at first. It looks like the end.
But then something amazing happens. Held in that Chrysalis, the liquified being of what was once a caterpillar then gets knit back together into a new form with new life and a new horizon of possibilities.
What was once bound to the earth is now borne up into the sky. What was once “shuffling along” – in this wonderful language from the book of Colossians … what was once shuffling along, eyes to the ground is now lifted and borne up upon dazzling wings. And the Chrysalis is cast off … What looked like a tomb was actually a womb for new life: new life in a new realm.
The caterpillar becomes the butterfly… But only if first it’s willing first to liquify … to liquify and then get knit back together … and then push back out and emerge and cast off that Chrysalis.
Now, it can be easy to get stuck in the liquification stage. Agony, despair, distress, disillusionment, fear, grief – these things that melt us – the ways we react to the kinds of wicked forces that put our dear Jesus to death – we can get stuck there in that kind of melting and just run down the drain. We know that’s the danger. So it can be hard to have the courage to face our troubles, to face our limitations. And it’s harder still to confront the evils at work in this world, especially as they play out in ourselves or on ourselves and maybe closer to home than we’d like to admit.
It can be so hard to cry out “Hosanna!” “Help! I need help. I can’t do this alone.” But … if we have the right container to hold us, the right Chrysalis, then we can become transformed.
My friends, Christ can be for us that Chrysalis, that container.
Easter is our testimony that we are not alone in our journeys of transformation. We have a sacred vessel to carry us through. We find that in Christ. So we can soften, dissolve, and then allow God to work on ourselves to knit us back together into a new form.
Hearts of stone can soften and become the strong muscles for the flow of life.
Wings unfold with new colors and new powers – even as they may be streaked by scars. Halleluiah!
If we have experienced this transformation in our lives, then we know this “Halleluiah!” If we have surrendered to God in this way, what else can we say, what else can we do but sing “Halleluiah!” Now, if we have not yet experienced this resurrected life, we can still claim it just the same. Or maybe we have lifted into the air for a time but then have gotten pulled back down by the weights of the world and we’ve folded up our wings and hardened back up – which, let’s be honest, it’s the kind of thing that happens to us.
Even if that’s where we’re at, we can still claim this “Halleluiah!”
We can sing this “Halleluiah!” as an act of defiance. Hope against hope. Have faith in a resurrected Christ as an act of refusal, refusal to allow the forces that break us down to break down our courage to hold on and keep going.
Darkness sought to overcome the light – Hosanna But Christ is risen! Halleluiah! Fear sought to cloud God’s peace – Hosanna But Christ is risen! Halleluiah! Hate sought to destroy love – Hosanna But Christ is risen! Halleluiah! Death sought to triumph over life – Hosanna But Christ is risen! Halleluiah!
(Delivered April 16, 2017, at First Congregational Church of Walla Walla, by Rev. Nathaniel Mahlberg)