April 14, 2023
May the grace and peace of our risen brother Jesus be with you all!
I pray that your Holy Week and Easter services and celebrations renewed your hearts and communities. I know that, for so many of us, the opportunity to be present to one another again in person has been very life giving. I would like to share this following Easter reflection with you, (adapted from a sermon I gave for the Easter Sunrise Service at Red Rocks here in Colorado.)
Signs and Wonders
“When the women returned from the tomb they told all this to the Eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. The other women with them also told the apostles, but this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe them. Peter, however, went running to the tomb. He bent down and saw the binding cloths but nothing else: he then went back home, amazed at what had happened.” Luke 24:9-12
When I read about the accounts of the Resurrection in the gospels, I am struck by the dissidence between the followers of Jesus who had direct experiences of earthquakes, angels and the resurrected Jesus and those disciples who initially had no direct experience. Belief that is burned into one’s psyche through direct experience shared with utter conviction verses no experience followed by total unbelief and disregard of the news from the messengers.
How often have we hungered to have a direct experience of God in our lives?
How often have we doubted the messengers who have shared with us their encounters of the divine?
I would guess that many of us are like Peter at times: we run in the right direction yet we struggle with belief and with what others tell us of their experiences of God.
Our minds have real doubts yet our hearts want so much for it all to be true…
we want a sign…
we need a sign...
A couple of weeks ago I was in the Dominican Republic visiting communities with a group of students, staff and faculty from Regis University. While there we visited a special place that always reminds me of our hunger and need for signs.
Here is the true story of someone
who desperately needed a sign from God.
Some years ago, I was asked to officiate a wedding for young couple whom I helped to prepare for marriage. They decided to have a destination wedding in the Dominican Republic in a spectacular setting with their family and friends. As I greeted the bridal party the morning of the big day I noticed that, Julie, the bridesmaid was distraught. She obviously had been crying a lot. When I gently asked her the source of her distress she shared that just yesterday, the whole crew of invited guests, some 50 people, had traveled to the 27 Waterfall of Damajagua, and had a blast climbing up the canyon formed by a spring fed river and sliding down waterfalls and jumping off cliffs.
In the course of their wild adventure, her husband, Todd, had lost his wedding ring. Somewhere in one of the many deep pools of swirling and crashing waters, his ring slipped off his finger and disappeared into the dark depths under a waterfall.
When she shared her story, I found it hard to connect the lost ring with her grief…after all it was just a ring. Anyways, I told her I was sorry for their loss and hurried off to prepare my sermon for their wedding ceremony. As I began to pray about what to share in my wedding sermon, all I could hear in my head, was, “Go get the ring!”
“Go get the ring??”
I realized that I only had 5 hours before the wedding was to start and it would take me over an hour to drive to the waterfalls.
Feeling led somehow by the Spirit, I jumped into the car and raced to the destination. When I arrived, I found the young men who lead tourists up and down the waterfalls. I asked them if they remembered the wedding party that was there yesterday and the story of the lost ring. Sure, they remembered the commotion and searching and tears over the lost ring! How could they forget! But great news!... Hector, one of the young tour guides went to the falls early in this morning and found the ring!!! “Wow! This is amazing! Where can I find Hector?” Miguel, one of the other tour guides jumped into my car and offered to take me to Hector’s house.
When we found Hector, he explained to us that he had already sold the ring this morning to a man in another town…so off we went in search of the man in the other town…who might hopefully still have the ring….and he did!!! So, I bought the ring/redeemed the ring and raced back to Cabarete for the wedding…I can still see the shining ring sitting on the dash in my mind and wondered how this was to all play out. I felt like I was looking at a miracle…and I was to be the messenger of the miracle.
Dawn and Jeff’s wedding was so beautiful! The love they shared with one another and with all of us that day was unforgettable. Also unforgettable was the story of the ring that came out of my pocket and was given back to Todd. I don’t remember being a part of a wedding where so much joy, laughter and tears were shed. Lost and found!
I discovered later that the reason for Julie's tears in the loss of her husband’s wedding ring. Both she and her husband had been struggling in their marriage. She was praying for a sign of what to do…should they stay together? Or separate?
The lost ring was the sign to separate…
so she thought…
until it wasn’t….
The found and redeemed ring led them to deeply re-commit and re-consecrate their lives together. Their two beautiful children will forever be grateful for their loving parents and a sign that was prayed for and received.