SPIRITUAL MATTERS: Listen to Easter message of hope

What do butterflies, flowers, eggs, bunnies, and an empty cross all have in common?
The answer – they all remind us of new life and God’s promises. That’s what springtime is all about, and that’s what Easter is all about too.
As a child it was common where I grew up in southern Ohio for stores to offer brightly colored real live chicks or ducklings for sale around Easter. I guess someone figured that if dying eggs was fun, then dyeing the hatchlings might be even more fun.
This was obviously in the days before we had much sensitivity about cruelty to animals.
You can only imagine the excitement for my sister and me when our mom brought home two little, cute, soft, fluffy ducklings one day before Easter.
Of course we didn’t know anything about raising ducks and didn’t live on a farm, but they were cute and, anyway, how hard could it be. We kept them in a cardboard box. They grew fast and we played with them.
One day with a couple of friends we decided to take the ducklings down to the creek behind our house so they could swim.
Being ducks we figured that was a good thing.
Somehow in trying to get my duck to swim faster or better, one of the neighborhood kids drowned my duck. I was devastated and for years I couldn’t forget the duck, nor could I forgive that kid or myself for letting it happen.
Years later I came across a wonderful story about a little boy visiting his grandparents on their farm.
He was practicing outside with a slingshot they gave him, but he couldn’t hit anything, not even the side of the barn.
Discouraged, he headed back to the house, and happened to walk by his grandma’s pet duck.
Impulsively he let a stone fly. It was, of course, a perfect hit, and killed the duck instantly. In a panic he hid the dead duck in the woodpile, only to look up and see his sister, Sally watching.
After lunch, grandma asked his sister to wash the dishes.
She replied, “Johnny told me he wanted to do them.” And then she whispered to her brother, “Remember the duck!”
Later grandpa asked the kids to go fishing, but Grandma said she needed Sally to help with dinner.
Sally smiled and spoke up, “Actually Johnny told me he wants to help.” Again she turned to him and said, “Remember the duck!”
For several days Johnny did all the chores and Sally had all the fun. Finally, unable to take it any longer, he went to his grandma and confessed to killing the duck.
She knelt down beside him and said, “I know. I was standing at the window and I saw the whole thing. But because I love you, I forgive you.”
Then she continued, “But I was wondering how long you would let your sister make a slave of you.”
I believe that Jesus stands at the window of our lives and sees the whole thing. But because he loves us, he forgives us.
In fact that’s why he died on the cross – so that we can be set free from the sin and failures and brokenness and guilt that can enslave us – and to bring us new life.
Yet sometimes Jesus must still stand at the window of our lives and wonder how long we will let sin and brokenness make a slave of us.
It doesn’t have to be – that’s the Easter message of hope and new life for each of us, no matter who we are or what we’ve done or how far we’ve strayed.
Come as you are this Easter to the foot of the empty cross, and be transformed by this wonderful good news of love, life, freedom and forgiveness.
The Rev. Jonathan A. Heierman is pastor of Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church

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