March 27, 2016

Hang In There

Last Thursday I was planning to cross the continental U.S. from east to west for a weekend appointment followed by a family visit. My flight was scheduled to leave at 4:07 p.m. from Baltimore. At 12:10 p.m. — 4 hours before my departure — I received a text message from my airline telling me that the flight would be delayed by 30 minutes. Not too bad, I thought, even though my connection in Denver would be very tight. Thirty minutes later I got another text message informing me that the delay would be slightly longer due to weather conditions. I knew that Denver had had a surprisingly powerful late March blizzard the day before, but the current weather showed a comfortable 50+ degrees Fahrenheit, and sun. Why would there be a delay due to weather conditions?

I'll spare you my pain: all-in-all I received 13 text messages and instead of 4:07 p.m. I finally left Baltimore at 10:05 p.m.—nearly six hours after the scheduled departure. During these hours, I spent significant time talking to a number of friendly airline customer service agents, looked for other flights and routes to Sacramento (there were none until Saturday), rebooked my onward flight to Friday morning, and always ended with the question: “Will my flight actually leave Baltimore, or will it just be cancelled?” I always got the same answer: “I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t tell you that. Right now the system gives me a departure time of . . . (you fill in the blank, since that variable kept on changing).” I wish I could read the mind of that system, I thought.

While it was nice that the airline informed me a long time before the departure of the delay, saving me many hours of sitting at the airport, there came a moment when I had to make a decision. Should I go to the airport now, I wondered, even though they may eventually cancel that flight altogether?

Easter weekend is a big deal where I come from. It’s one of the few moments during the year when mainline churches are full. It’s the time for Passion plays and orchestras and choirs singing Bach cantatas or passions. Easter often means travel, family time, chocolate eggs and bunnies—and yet, it stands for so much more.

For a moment, imagine yourself to be part of the scattered, disheartened, frightened, and anxious friends of Jesus. Their Master, the One they had hoped would finally establish God’s Kingdom, had hung suspended between heaven and earth, agonizing as He carried something so much darker than the darkest night we can imagine. Finally, He had died and they had put Him in an empty tomb. That Sabbath must have been sheer agony for the disciples. What happened?, they may have asked. Why hadn’t He climbed down from the cross and finally demonstrated the power they knew He had? Time ticked by; fear suffocated their hope; darkness prevailed.

Sunday morning changed everything.

The power of the resurrection not only gave them renewed hope and unimagined energy—it also transformed them into powerful witnesses. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,” wrote Paul much later, “but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18 NKJV).

Just imagine: you and I can have the “power of God” available to us when we contemplate and accept the message of the cross. The resurrection of Jesus changed everything. Suddenly, we can hang in there, where before all just seemed dark and cold and hopeless. Suddenly, we can endure the seemingly never-ending wait. As we remember resurrection morning, we can marvel at His nail prints, touch His wounded side, or just sit at His feet, marveling at His boundless grace. The Master is alive. All is well. All is quiet. He is here—right where you and I struggle to keep our faith.

Gerald A. Klingbeil is an associate editor of Adventist Review and enjoys to hear “He is alive” in different languages, music genres, and life stories.