Claiming the power of Easter

Published 6:09 pm Tuesday, April 14, 2020

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By Scott Baker

Most of you know the following words, if you didn’t recite them as a child I would be surprised. If you didn’t recite them no doubt you have heard them. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee, Lord, my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take. If I should live for other days, I pray thee, Lord, to guide me in all my ways. Amen.”

We teach these words to our children. And if you ever think about them they are pretty scary for a child to hear, much less pray. My suspicion is that parents say the words as much for themselves as the children.

It must be some deep-down archetypal fear imbedded in our psyches that we approach the day’s end with some fear and trembling. Truth be told, I think each time we sleep we face a very miniature likeness to death. And let’s face it, no one wants to face that lightly.

In Easter we have confirmed once again that death has no power over us. Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and giving life to those in the tomb. The Eastertide we celebrate, even if it is a very different Easter than any we have known due to the “shelter in place,” we do it because it is “meet and right so to do.” But I think we also do it to reassure ourselves that in the face of danger, even death from something like COVID-19 there is a greater power. Like children we want to have our fears soothed away by our heavenly parent who reassures us in the open tomb of Easter morning, that death has no more dominion over us.

And what is required of us? The only requirement of us is our trust in God’s grace. That’s our only contribution. Our faith and belief in the resurrection is all that is require to receive this marvelous gift. Yet like our bedtime prayers we must recognize and name what holds us back from responding to God’s grace found in the empty tomb. That which holds us back is our fear.

It’s what taints our prayers at bedtime and it’s what restrains us in our response to God. Over and over again throughout all of holy Scripture, and especially in the resurrection accounts in the gospels, God in Christ tells us “Do not be afraid.” Trusting in Jesus means looking at those very same resurrection accounts and realize that every time he came to his friends they became stronger, wiser, kinder, and more daring. Every time he came to them, they became more like him.

For as the letter to the Ephesians reminds us, “Do we not know that the power working in us is the same as the mighty power God used when he raised Christ Jesus from the dead.”

That same mighty power that rolled away the stone, shook the earth, and brought about the New Creation is working in and through us. You see, we don’t do it alone. Truth be told, we can’t do it alone. Just like in our baptismal vows we recognize and lean on the Holy Spirit’s power working in us. We affirm that we live into the resurrection life “with God’s help.” Again, grace filled moments that happens hour by hour and day in and day out.

I don’t know if you pray before you go to sleep. It was one of the final things my Mama said to me before I went to bed, “Be sure to say your prayers.” And even to this day my prayers begin with “Now I lay me down to sleep … .” On my best nights I don’t go to bed fearful. But there are those moments that I wonder what may happen between the time I close my eyes and open them again in the morning. In those moments what I remember is not “Now I lay me down to sleep,” but rather, “Alleluia, Christ is risen.” And with that thought I utter a quiet Amen, and sleep like a baby.

THE REV. SCOTT BAKER is the rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 562-4542.