God’s faithfulness is evident as Easter season is fulfilled
Have you ever heard a songbird rip the quiet stillness of the night? It's unforgettable. It's incongruous. It's beautiful. It's an image of Easter.
Nature has many images of Easter, signs of life appearing suddenly where apparently there was no life at all. Just now in many places where snow still covers the ground, small flowers are pushing through the cold, lifeless cover almost overnight. So the crocus flower signals the coming of spring. The word "lenten" comes from an Old English word for springtime. It's an appropriate name for the Easter season.
Brother Lawrence, that celebrated French monk known for his little book "Practicing the Presence of God," wrote that he owed his destiny to springtime. On a late winter day at 18, his eyes fell on a "dry leafless tree standing gaunt against the snow."
Just a tiny hint of spring in that tree had such an impact on him that he was converted to Christ on the spot. From that moment on this uneducated "great awkward fellow who broke everything," yet whose prayer to "Lord of all pots and pans" has touched millions, was like a continuous breath of spring to all who knew him.
There's one special image of Easter that to me has been unforgettable and beautiful and, like all images of Easter, is also incongruous. It comes from an unlikely place in the Bible. From the book of heartfelt lament come the words "Great is thy faithfulness." The book of Lamentations is called a funeral song for the city of Jerusalem. Yet, though written through bitter tears, we read "Because (God's) compassions fail not, they are new every morning. Great (O God) is your faithfulness."
The origin of the hymn, familiar even to the Christian Gen-X, which puts to music these words from Lamentations, is itself an image of Easter. Thomas Chisholm was born in a log cabin in rural Kentucky. Without benefit of even a high school education, he advanced from schoolteacher to editor of a newspaper in Louisville. Bad health later forced him into semi-retirement, during which he sold insurance as he was able. Though severely strapped financially, Chisholm was still able to say, "I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of God. I am filled with astonishing gratefulness." The composer for "Great is Thy Faithfulness" said the great appeal of Chisholm's words forced him to pray earnestly "for the tune that would carry over the message in a worthy way."
My wife and I also know that appeal. We changed the pronouns to plural when we had those words sung at our wedding: "All we have needed thy hand has provided. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto us." The words "Great is thy Faithfulness" will be etched on the stone marking our grave site.
Speaking of which, I will mention finally another biblical image of Easter. It too comes from an unlikely place. It's a remarkable Easter pronouncement from, of all places, the Old Testament and by, of all people, Job: "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes; I, and not another."
It's in the book of Job that we read "God is my maker, who gives songs in the night." God's ultimate song in the night came through the words of angels in the darkness just before the dawning of that day we celebrate weekly. On Easter, we pull out all the stops to celebrate, "He is not here; he has risen, just as he said he would." Great is thy faithfulness!
Sim Fulcher is an associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu