Heaven's Curtain Call

Easter alleluias to you all! Now comes the time. 'Play's over. Curtain Call. The players come out to take our praise and reveal their true selves. We see it in life. Revealing time. At every school concert, the band or chorus stands. You get to praise your son or daughter. Dancers take a bow. Kids on the playing field quit being Lions or Wildcats. They do that line thing, themselves again, high-fiving the other team. There comes a moment. Our masks and colors are put aside. Oh, we may remain in costume or uniform. But now everybody sees our true selves and responds to the part we've played. Curtain call! Dear friends, Easter's just such a revealing time. You and I are here for Heaven's Curtain Call, in Jesus Christ. It's an image filled with help and hope.

Easter: Heaven's Curtain Call. Jesus is called back. The end is not the end. And now, we see him as he truly is. I didn't think-up that curtain image. Luke reports it long centuries ago. At Jesus' death, the temple's curtain was torn in two, rent like a mourner's tunic in ancient times. Heaven itself is seized by grief at Jesus' cross. Here's how we know. See, to believers in Jesus' day, this was the curtain that surrounded the Holy of Holies, those few cubic feet on earth where God was thought to dwell. It protected God's real mystery like the cloak around the Wizard of Oz veiled his pretend power. And it protected people from the overwhelming light and might of the Lord. Shed that veil and God's power is exposed. Look out! God's on the loose. There's no telling whether women and children and men will be consumed by God, or converted. Perish or be saved. That was Friday. But now, now it's SUNDAY!

It's EASTER Sunday. Now the story is changed. We're here, because at the grave, Jesus was not! But it will take more than an empty grave to give us help or hope. John's Gospel's so true to us, as to them. Peter, Jesus' "Rock", his main man, makes a beeline for the tomb. John, the disciple Jesus turns to from the cross and says, "My mom's yours now," trusted, beloved John's there too. Eventually, they both look in, no Jesus. They observe the details. But they don't get the big picture. To them, Jesus is, well… just gone! Like us, they're thick (skulled), dim (bulbed believers). (We're hard to convince, much less convert. Hmpf. Remember the Doctor with the psychiatric patient who insists he's already deceased? So the doc informs him the dead don't bleed, then gently pricks his finger. The patient sees the first red tinge and exclaims, 'Look Doc, the dead do bleed!' We're a tough sell.) Mary returns, weeping. Jesus appears. She figures he's just the gardener! For all of them, the play's over. The last act ended on Friday's awful hill. But to Mary first, Jesus makes his curtain call. He returns. Not to take a bow. But to show us who he really is, the Son of God! All he needs to do is call her by name. Now, when she calls out to him, "Teacher!" she sees him as never before. Healer, yes. But Savior now. Victor over death, giver of new life, another chance, a hope for this world, a promise to the next. Want a great prayer for your Easter dinner today? Pray that like Mary, everyone at your table will hear the Risen Jesus call their name! The empty tomb may not do it; we don't get it. But a crucified yet living Savior who calls you by name, that's enough for faith from this world to the next!

Easter's Curtain Call. The curtain's torn in two, so heaven and earth can be one. Easter lifts the curtain on the Kingdom, here to hereafter! From heaven's viewpoint, now the whole earth is God's living room! If there ever was one, now there's no separation. Watch what Jesus says. "Mary, don't hold me back. I haven't yet gone to report to Our Father. Go tell my brothers I'm on my way. Tell 'em I'll meet 'em at Galilee before I go. And I'll be sending the Spirit to you. Why? So you will have the power to reclaim the very ground… and souls… God declared holy at my rising!"

This is personal, from sadness, to sin, to salvation. Jesus' resurrection rips the curtain. He returns to show us his true self in glory. Nobody has to grieve alone any more. Famed author Leo Buscaglia once judged a contest to find the most caring child. The winner was four. Her next door neighbor: an elder man who'd recently lost his wife. Seeing him cry, the little girl went into the old man's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. Her mother asked what she said to the man. The child said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry." In Christ, God drains our sorrow; his robes absorb the dampness of our tears… like a little child's sleeve in a weeping saint's lap.

"It's Easter, Rev. Happy talk time. Let's not mention sin." But sin is the subject the resurrection addresses. It's the thing the empty grave defeats. Ever wonder where life will all end? I mean, how will we defeat the evils we confront? It helps to start with an honest telling of who and what we are. The church calls this confession. An acquaintance of mine, Robt. Seiple was a pilot in 'Nam. Years later, he returned, a civilian official. He requested to see the place from which he'd once flown. He was denied by a Vietnamese official who said he used to shoot down such planes. A long talk unfolded between them. A painful, mutual telling of hurts and wounds and wrongs. Ugly, but necessary, Bob says. Finally the other man asked if Bob had kids. He returned the question. Sharing pictures, the tears began to flow. Cleansing! Admitted sin. Common hope. Dawning faith. Curtain Call. Another chance at who we are, knowing now who Christ really is…. I had an early morning talk last week with someone. 'About a searing family sorrow. An unspeakable hurt done by one, to three generations of the same household. 'How to hold on? 'How to overcome the instinct to retaliate? How to overcome? By nothing but resurrection faith. Trust that God has the insatiable desire and unrestrained will to make it right. Only later that day I recalled a true story that might have helped. In China, under the awful political purges of the Cultural Revolution (40 years ago) a father sits imprisoned for his activist faith in Christ. No relief expected. No hope of freedom. Except one. Daily, same time, this man could see a little white kite fluttering in the sky outside his tiny window. He could not see the little boy at the other end of the string. But he knew. It was his son. And every day he flew his kite where this prisoner-pop could see that someone is watching. Someone is waiting. You will come home. Jesus says so. No cross, no evil is so strong as this word. Friends, Easter puts you and me in the kite flying business for each other. Easter gives us the power to reclaim the ground… and souls… God declared holy at Jesus' rising!"

Easter: Heaven's Curtain Call. It lingers in the air. With Easter the curtain goes up on a new heaven and a new earth. And we're invited to take our places, unmask our faces. Come this resurrection morning, we get word. God is determined to make this earth a holy dwelling place. The real person of Jesus is back on stage. Here to be acknowledged, praised, our Savior and Lord, completing the story of saving grace.

Before Easter, believers see God alive in that curtained off little place. After, he's seen infusing this whole world with the promise of the next. It's a new day today. We shouldn't miss the contrast! The rabbis taught in Jesus' day, God lives in that Holy of Holies. Not in the Ark box of the Covenant (Sorry, Indiana Jones.) Not on the mercy seat. Nor above the carefully carved cherubs, in watch of the sacred place. But in this little shaft of air, between the ever-kissing, but never-touching lips of these figures. In that intimate place where angels almost kiss, God was thought to dwell. Lovely. But: no more! Now we go to find the Lord at the entrance to an opened tomb! How unexpected. But there's a Curtain Call. He is not there. But risen! And moving on before us to show us the way, all the way back to heaven!

Easter faith marks our way to life eternal. Nothing means as much. But we don't have to wait to be with him. He is with us, here, and now. Living. And all around you are those who can tell you stories of where they've seen him. What's your story? Would you dare to tell it? To show it? To somebody. This very Easter week. Bill Enright speaks of Victory, the last town in Vt. to get electricity. A stranger moves in. Nightly, she sees this old man beside the road in all weather. Just standing there. She asks a neighbor by and by, what's up with him? Homeless, a little off, what? The neighbor reports he's completely sane, has a home just doors away. "He just doesn't like the thought of you driving home in the dark alone, so he goes to the road each day to see you pass. Once he knows you're OK, he goes home." Simple. Quiet. Christlike. Bob Seiple stands on a bridge in Rwanda during the worse of the genocide there. There's horror at his feet, countless victims in mangled mounds. His heart breaks. He wails like Mary on the way to the tomb she thinks holds Jesus. She finds the stone rolled away. Bob looks up from that bridge, and sees, of all things, a rainbow in the sky. And he knows the promise overhead more powerful than the heartache at our feet. That's the discovery in the Resurrection Garden! God in Christ stands in front of the curtain. The end is not the end. Heaven and earth can be one. 'Can be new. With a place for me and you. His promise: we can have a Curtain Call too!

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