It was Easter Sunday, and a pastor at Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York City, was celebrating her last Sunday there.
It was a bittersweet Sunday. She experienced the worst and best of people's lives during the time she was at the church. She had journeyed with the people during and after 9/11. She had been at the church when the attack happened. She was there during the search for people in the rubble.
She had served the first responders soup, bandaged their wounds and fed their physical and spiritual souls. She was amazed the church was not hurt in the attack, and that gave her hope. However, her true barometer for hope was a tree outside the church that had been there since the church had been built.
The tree still was standing after the attack. However, it had lost all its leaves. The gardener said it still was alive and it would come back from the trauma. She watched the tree for several seasons. She was hoping when spring arrived, the tree would show life by sprouting leaves. It seemed like it went through many seasons without any sign of life.
On her last Sunday, Easter Sunday, she walked by the tree as was her habit every day. She was caught off guard. She did a double-take not sure she really was seeing what she thought she was seeing. There it was, one small leaf budding out of the tree. Not only did she see the leaf, she saw a small bird's nest resting at the top of the tree.
The true message of Easter hope hit her. She really thought all was lost for the tree. She had thought the gardener didn't know what he was talking about. She really saw the tree as the symbol for all that had been lost in the attack, all that had been changed and could not be recovered. But on that Easter, when the ultimate hope -- the resurrection of Jesus Christ -- was celebrated, she was reminded there is reason to hope for new life. She was reminded when it seems the darkest, that there is reason to still cling to hope.
The pastor thought about what Mary must have felt like when she was encountered by Jesus at the tomb. Mary, the pastor thought, must have been the most hopeful person that day when she discovered Jesus indeed was alive. Mary discovered all Jesus had predicted had happened.
Mary must have been ecstatic to experience the power of her God and her Lord and Savior.
Where are you in your own life journey this Easter season? Are you the most hopeful person in the world or are you wondering if there is any reason for hope? Wherever you are, I pray you might experience the hope of this Easter season. I pray you might hear the Easter story anew with the promise of new life for you as you are made a new creation in Christ.
Christ is risen. There is new life in Christ. There is reason to hope and to believe God is a God who keeps God's promises.
May your life's journey be filled with Easter hope.
The Rev. Lesley Radius is pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Hays.