Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter Thoughts 2015

Our Easter celebration and commemoration is upon us.  The glorious event pictured above is the culmination of this week.  The joy of the open tomb of our resurrected Lord and Redeemer. The events leading up to it were not so pleasant.

I have written a lot of Easter posts in the past few years and have given talks about Easter on Easter in church more than once or twice.  But for a couple of years I had been trying to remember where I had seen the Easter passages that really touched my heart several years ago.  It was in one of our church books somewhere.  I am excited that I have found it again and I love this so much.  This is a talk given by Jeffery R. Holland when he was the President of Brigham Young University in 1985.  I found a portion of it in his book entitled On Earth As It Is On Heaven.  It was published in 1989 By Deseret Books.

The book included a portion of the talk in this anthology.  The Chapter heading is I Stand All Amazed.  Hmm, being the researcher in training these days I thought maybe...just maybe there is a talk online by Elder Holland with the same title.  Bingo.  I found it on Google is a nano second.

So I have given you a portion of his words where he is quoting a former Apostle, Elder Melvin J Ballard later on in the text.

Elder Holland...

“There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:
“And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
“And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
“Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.
“But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
“But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.
“And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.” (Matt. 21:33–39.)

That is the moment at which we find ourselves on the summit of Golgotha. It is not a pleasant story. Through patience that seems inordinately generous, the Father and the Son have waited and watched and worked in this vineyard for mercy to run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. But they have not run. Not only have the prophets and faithful few been killed, but now so is to be the son of the Lord of the vineyard. A terrible, incalculable price is to be paid, and it wounds the human heart to tell it.
In the midst of the swearing and the spit, the thorns and the threats, the ridicule and the rending of his garments; added to the crushing weight of his own body straining for support on the very nails that have been driven into his hands and into his feet; with friends in retreat and foes as far as the eye could see, the worst possible scene in this divine drama unfolds.
Perhaps the briefest glimpse is given of the terrible emotions and forces at work here when we read lines intentionally preserved for us in the original Aramaic: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46.)
There is one thing and one thing alone this Only Begotten Son has been sure of: the love and companionship and unwavering support of his father. Consider these lines taken almost at random from the Gospel of John. They are suggestive of a theme that runs throughout that book.
“The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: … The Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth.” (John 5:19–20.)
“I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 6:38.)
“I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him.” (John 7:28–29.)
“The Father that sent me beareth witness of me. … If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.” (John 8:18–19.)
“I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30.)
“He gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.” (John 12:49.)
“Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” (John 16:32.)
And then this assertion, perhaps the most painful of all: “I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. … He that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” (John 8:16, 29.)
That one constant thread of doctrine and belief, the one certainty he had in spite of what might happen among mortal friend and foe: “[My] Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things which please him.”
And now, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
May I share this from Elder Melvin J. Ballard, written many years ago:
“I ask you, what father and mother could stand by and listen to the cry of their children in distress … and not render assistance? I have heard of mothers throwing themselves into raging streams when they could not swim a stroke to save their drowning children, [I have heard of fathers] rushing into burning buildings to rescue those whom they loved.
“We cannot stand by and listen to those cries without its touching our hearts. … He had the power to save, and He loved His Son, and He could have saved Him. He might have rescued Him from the insult of the crowds. He might have rescued Him when the crown of thorns was placed upon His head. He might have rescued Him when the Son, hanging between two thieves, was mocked with, ‘Save thyself, and come down from the cross. He saved others; himself he cannot save.’ He listened to all this. He saw that Son condemned; He saw Him drag the cross through the streets of Jerusalem and faint under its load. He saw the Son finally upon Calvary; he saw His body stretched out upon the wooden cross; he saw the cruel nails driven through hands and feet, and the blows that broke the skin, tore the flesh, and let out the life’s blood of His [Only Begotten] Son. …
“[He] looked on [all that] with great grief and agony over His Beloved [Child], until there seems to have come a moment when even our Saviour cried out in despair: ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.
“In that hour I think I can see our dear Father behind the veil looking upon these dying struggles, … His great heart almost breaking for the love that He had for His Son. Oh, in that moment when He might have saved His Son, I thank Him and praise Him that He did not fail us. … I rejoice that He did not interfere, and that His love for us made it possible for Him to endure to look upon the sufferings of His [Only Begotten] and give Him finally to us, our Saviour and our Redeemer. Without Him, without His sacrifice, we would have remained, and we would never have come glorified into His presence. … This is what it cost, in part, for our Father in heaven to give the gift of His Son unto men.
“He, … our God, is a jealous God—jealous lest we should [ever] ignore and forget and slight His greatest gift unto us”—the life of his Firstborn Son. (Melvin J. Ballard, Crusader for Righteousness,Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, pp. 136–38.)"

Elder Holland continues...
So how do we make sure that we never “ignore or slight or forget” his greatest of all gifts unto us?
We do so by showing our desire for a remission of our sins and our eternal gratitude for that most courageous of all prayers, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34.) We do so by joining in the work of forgiving sins, which is so clearly demonstrated hour after hour, day after day, in temple work, from the baptismal font on the back of those twelve oxen deep inside the House of the Lord clear to the veil of the temple, the celestial room, and the Holy of Holies beyond it.
“‘Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,’ [Paul commands us]. (Gal. 6:2) … The law of Christ, which it is our duty to fulfill, is the bearing of the cross. My brother’s burden which I must bear is not only his outward lot [and circumstance], … but quite literally his sin. And the only way to bear that sin is by forgiving it in the power of the cross of Christ in which [we] now share. Thus the call to follow Christ always means a call to share [in] the work of forgiving men their sins. Forgiveness is the Christlike suffering which it is the Christian’s duty to bear.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 2d ed., New York: Macmillan, 1959, p. 100.)
Surely the reason Christ said “Father, forgive them” was because even in the weakened and terribly trying hour he faced, he knew that this was the message he had come through all eternity to deliver. 
All of the meaning and all of the majesty of all those dispensations—indeed the entire plan of salvation—would have been lost had he forgotten that not in spite of injustice and brutality and unkindness and disobedience but precisely because of them had he came to extend forgiveness to the family of man.
Anyone can be pleasant and patient and forgiving on a good day. A Christian has to be pleasant and patient and forgiving on all days. It is the quintessential moment of his ministry, and as perfect in its example as it was difficult to endure.
Is there someone in your life who perhaps needs forgiveness? Is there someone in your home, someone in your family, someone in your neighborhood who has done an unjust or an unkind or an unchristian thing? All of us are guilty of such transgressions, so there surely must be someone who yet needs your forgiveness.
And please don’t ask if that’s fair—that the injured should have to bear the burden of forgiveness for the offender. Don’t ask if “justice” doesn’t demand that it be the other way around. No, whatever you do, don’t ask for justice. You and I know that what we plead for is mercy—and that is what we must be willing to give."

I find this to be extremely beautiful and poetic and true.  I especially love the portion where he is quoting Elder Ballard.  We often think of the magnitude of our Savior's sacrifice which is incomprehensible to us.  
But until I read this passage I never pondered deeply about the unfathomable anguish of Our Heavenly Father as He watched His Only Begotten Son experience this horrific death one hideous abuse after another, knowing that he could have stopped it.  But He, Our Heavenly Father, suffered it for us. Having a son of your own adds yet another dimension of appreciation for His gift.  Our Heavenly Father did this because He loves us...that much.  Imagine it!  It was for you and for me individually and all of us.  Not as a group but for each one.  
There are not words sufficient to express the gratitude we should feel for both The Father and The Son not just in this Holy Week but all the time.  Because of that pivotal and universal sacrifice the opportunity for everything that is important in this life and the next can be ours.  This should give us great cause alone to have A Very Happy Easter!