According to an ancient legend, if you could find “the touchstone” on the Coast of the Black Sea, and hold it in your hand, everything you touched would turn to gold. You would be able to recognize the touchstone by its warmth. Any other stones you might find and reach for would feel cold to the touch. But when you picked up and held the touchstone, it would turn warm in your hand.
A man sold everything he had and went to the coast of the Black Sea in search of the touchstone. He began immediately to walk along the shoreline, picking up one stone after another in his diligent and intentional search for this rare, life-giving stone. He was consumed with this dream of holding such a treasure in his hand. However, after several days of fruitless searching, he realized he was picking up the same stones again and again. So he devised a plan: he would pick up a stone. If it was cold, the man, in his disappointment, would throw it into the sea. He did this for weeks and weeks.
Then one morning he wearily went out to continue his search for the touchstone. He picked up a stone. It was cold, so he threw it into the sea. He picked up another—stone cold. He tried yet another…it turned warm in his hand, and before he realized a miracle had occurred, he also threw this unbelievable find into the sea!
Today, in the miracle of Easter, our happy ending AND our new beginning—we have encountered the true touchstone. Will we relegate it to another “experience,” the warmth of community, inherited belief, being caught up in the moment of same, same—and then walk away having squandered this priceless gift, not realizing what we have?
Death only appears to be the final word in our lives. New life is truly possible from this day forward. We can rise daily with Christ, putting the old behind us and beginning again, not only daily, but sometimes hour by hour, moment by moment.
Our personal “tombs” and our private “entrapments” can be broken open. Life doesn’t have to be same old, same old, with a mindset that says nothing good, or possibly even miraculous, is ever going to happen. We can receive the strength and a spirit of anticipation to live without the defenses that we spend most of our time and energy building up. Because in doing so, we relegate ourselves to a kind of victim mentality and status. In essence, we give up!
Friends, we don’t have to be perfect in any sense. Jesus himself lived that life of perfection so that the burden has been removed from us. We are free to be vulnerable, relying on God’s mercy and love as our only defense. Think about it. We now dwell in our new life in Christ—to be lived joyfully in community with those who also reach this ending-as-beginning and are also witnesses to the touchstone of Resurrection life and faith.
And yet, while I share this positive message of hope and new beginnings, I have become aware of church bombings in Sri Lanka, while Christians were praying and worshipping in their Easter morning services. Over 300 were killed. We grieve with them over this horrific and senseless mass killing, and we pray for the injured, and those who lost loved ones. While we are horrified, our one comfort is knowing that those who died are now with Christ in eternal life. This is the hope to which we cling.
I was reading an excerpt from Richard Rohr’s book Immortal Diamont: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), pp. 142-144. Rohr reminds us that the Christ in each of us is the risen Christ. The Christ within us, our core being, is there to let us know constantly that we are resurrected people.
The Christ within us knows about death and dying, and just as importantly promises us resurrection OUT OF EVERY SITUATION, every part of us that seems to have died, or has gone the wrong way. When we connect to the (Risen) Christ within, our core of love, we will begin to see resurrection out of every difficult situation. We will see difficulties with new eyes. We won’t become so numb with the same old grind, that we don’t recognize when we have picked up the touchstone that can change everything we touch into gold or resurrection in the situations of our lives.
Sometimes resurrection happens as soon as three days, but as we all know it often takes much longer, sometimes years. One can see resurrection most often and most vividly in grief recovery groups. Men and women who are paralyzed by the death of a loved one begin a new life, often a life of service to others who are suffering. Are we open to the possibility for resurrected life when we are suffering?
We try to connect to the resurrected Christ within us by all the multitude of spiritual practices available to us and in turn learn to wait and look expectantly for resurrection in our lives and in the lives of others. We must learn to look for and be willing to find redemption in situations that seem hopeless, praying without ceasing for God’s Spirit to come and bring new life to situations that seem impossible. Often God breaks through when we least expect it.
Hopefully, we will not lose hope so that when we pick up the touchstone, we throw it into the sea without realizing what we are doing. Rather, we can be like the women bringing spices and myrrh to the empty tomb, trying to understand what could possibly come out of such an awful situation. We grieve, we wait, trying to stay aware of our next step, trying to do the next right thing, and being open to the resurrection that we have been promised will happen. God can, and delights to, bring resurrection and redemption to every situation of our lives. Sometimes it’s not what we expect and so we miss it.
Let us enter into Easter joy and expectation! Jesus is alive! He is Risen! He lives within each and every one of us who proclaim him Lord! We are called to feast and sing and overflow with joy in the name of our risen Savior. In his great power and mercy, Jesus has fulfilled all our hopes, defeated our enemy, revived our dead hearts, brought true justice to the Earth, and made all things new!
As St. Augustine wrote, “We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our cry.”
On this most holy Feast Day in all Christendom, let us exclaim, “Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! Amen.