April 15, 2020
On Easter morning, I got out of bed early and spent some time reviewing my sermon notes for the morning. Taking a break from the effort, I posted something about my previous day’s activities on Facebook. Pastor Sean from the Lutheran Church messaged me that he was also up early and inviting me to watch the sunrise from the cemetery with him (from an appropriate social distance, of course). I agreed before hurriedly getting dressed and out the door to get to the edge of town before the sun rose. During the walk over, I spent time praying for folks I know, worrying about the right way to start the sermon that morning, and thinking about the quarantine. I have to walk west from my house to the cemetery. So the whole time I was walking, I was looking out over the prairie. When I walked into the cemetery, I tried to remember where the graves of several folks I knew were located, though buried under the snow, I wouldn’t be able to visit them. Then, when I reached the top of the hill, I turned and saw the sun rising over the Bear Paw mountains. It was beautiful, as Montana sunrises always are. Then it occurred to me that I was spending my morning and my walk looking away from the sunrise itself and concentrating on the stuff I had to worry about today. I was missing the sunrise because I wasn’t looking at it. This is a perfect illustration of how we often approach this life. We get so focused on the problems at hand that we forget that this life is not all there is. Jesus’ resurrection on Easter morning serves as proof of that life doesn’t end at the grave. The Bible teaches that there will be a physical resurrection when Jesus returns and that we will live with God in eternity. This is the good news of the resurrection that we celebrate on Easter morning, but it is good news that applies to every day of our lives. The temptation to fixate on this world can easily rob us of the hope and joy that comes with on Easter morning. We can easily fixate on the world, our problems, money worries, anger over past hurts, shame, and all sorts of other problems in this world while the resurrection happens behind us. The trick to finding this joy as a regular part of our lives is turning around and looking, like I finally did with the sunrise. The worries of this life need to be attended to as long as we are alive. The trick is to block out times to stop and look to God. When we spend time praying, reading His word, and worshipping Him, it reorients our lives. It’s not our inclination. The tyranny of the urgent problems we face can easily draw our focus from the longer term hope we have in Jesus. This is why intentionally picking a time to spend with Him is a huge part of the process. The good news is that once we get into the habit of stopping and looking to Him, it gets easier. It becomes ingrained in our thinking and our attitude toward life. The trick is taking the first steps, which are often the most difficult.