Pr. Jaynan Clark
April 22, 2014
His name rang out across the beauty of the Pacific Northwest backdrop. Spring, springing, the bloated river surging, the long expected warmth and light of the sunshine radiating down on all of us. It was Easter afternoon on the Centennial Trail and it was beautiful.
After a long Lent and a 5 sermon Holy Week (which included a painful memorial service), enroute to our friend's house for an Easter feast with family members, I pulled over for my run. I had just enough time and I had by necessity missed more runs the past week then I had gotten so I was really ripe and ready!
As I jogged up and down the hills and rounded the many curves I met or was passed by an abundance of folks; the most I think I had ever seen on the trail. Where I started from, at Sontag Park, is the beginning of a very long bike trail that stretches from little Nine Mile Falls, Washington where I live into and across the Panhandle of Idaho. Not really sure how close they have gotten to Montana with it but you can get on there in my neighborhood and stay on for a very long time.
Today was family day, not super-athletes-in-training day. Everyone I met I greeted with the proclamation of “Happy Easter.” Everyone in turn happily greeted me back; which here in the pagan Pacific Northwest was a bit of a surprise I might add. I got “you too” and “thank you” mostly but I received a few returns of “Happy Easter to you.” I considered really pushing it and exclaiming “He is Risen” just to test the waters and see if I got any “He is Risen, indeed!” response back, as I had just heard in morning worship, but I didn’t really want to interrupt my pace to have to stop and explain or, worse yet, get reprimanded. So it goes with our Easter public proclamation.
Now within a mile of my car and nearing the end of my run I knew from many times on the trail that the biggest, steepest hill was ahead for my “enjoyment.” These first few miles of the Centennial Trail are an old road so it is very wide unlike further down where it has replaced the old railroad tracks. This first or last hill, depending on your direction, is a long, curved, steep, killer of a hill. Going up, most bikers find themselves shifting so low they almost tip; all except the animals on wheels who scream by you in their flashy professional wear and decorative helmets. Going up they leave a scent of their arrogance; coming down they endanger everyone who isn’t keeping to the side of the trail. Though marked for speed limits by Park and Rec, they race down and scare everyone as they flash by you. Many years ago, I watched two of my young sons, on the first day of summer vacation, lose speed control on this very hill and they both still have scars to commemorate the day.
Preparing myself mentally for the climb up and out, I rounded the curve and came across a large group of people spread across the double-wide trail—obviously extended family, dangerously extended today in their Easter/Spring joyful stroll. They were very young and very old, paced to accommodate all ages. They had some on bikes, some in strollers and back packs and the elder with a walker. It was something to see. They were chattering and laughing and just plain happy. I came up behind them and called out so not to startle anyone. They began to serpentine trying to figure out if they were going left or right, together or separately. My pace was slow so they had time, believe me, but no organization for they were at play. I called out, “I’ll just weave my way through, sorry that you will have to witness me suffering up the big hill.” Everyone laughed. I added, “Happy Easter!”---it was like a choir responded, “Happy Easter to you too.” Then it happened, one family member said, “Biker!” in a loud voice. They all began to serpentine and scramble again but this time for real. It was then that the fast and flashy biker, still well up the hill, yelled it at the top of his lungs, “Jesus Christ!” It was not a proclamation. I could hear the children, the seniors and everyone in-between gasp. It was an Easter moment, for sure, because Easter doesn’t stand alone—it is always wed to Good Friday and His cross of crucifixion, His betrayal, His abandonment by all.
Spontaneously and without thought I yelled out, “Happy Easter!” and the out-of-control, in so many ways, biker responded, “Go to Hell!” and I replied without hesitation, “He already did and came back again.” Then there was silence. Time just stopped. The family spontaneously and safely divided as if they were the waters of the Red Sea, he passed through and disappeared. Blessed or cursed? Not for me to determine or to know anymore than the words that spewed from my mouth only hours ago in the pulpit of His church.
“Go to Hell!”. . . . “He already did and came back again.” I guess this was God’s non-liturgical, by-way, highway version of “He is Risen!” Go figure!
So, there it is. Right there on the Centennial Trail. And the palm laden road into Jerusalem. And the dirty path to Golgatha. And the climb up the hill of Calvary. And the road to Emmaus. And the way to Damascus and on and on. Decade after decade, century after century, one millennium at a time it rings out as both a curse and a call; a protest and a proclamation. His name, the name above every name, for all ears to hear--“Jesus Christ!”
He is Risen, Indeed!