Of Easter, Ice, and Faith
It seems odd, then, that my thoughts turn back to wintry ice, but I have a story to share.
Three plus decades ago I was a young associate pastor on my first assignment. Sally and I had moved across the country to Morris County, New Jersey. We began in the heat of Jersey summer but soon were experiencing a record setting full northern winter. In spite of the deep January cold and gloom, I was on the edge of my seat, anticipating something I had never experienced growing up in Texas. I had never seen a completely frozen body of water, and the lakes dotting the hills above our home froze during significant cold spells. I could hardly wait!
One afternoon I took off from work and drove into the hills in search of adventure. I passed several lakes on the way to higher elevations until I finally reached what looked to be a large, solidly frozen lake. I parked the car, went to the edge, and looked longingly at the expansive playground that stretched out before me. Oh, I wanted to run, jump, and slide! But this was new territory for me: how strong was the ice? I wasn’t about to risk falling into a hypothermic baptism and an early transit to my eternal rest. How could I test the ice besides poking at it from the shore?
Looking around, I saw my test instrument — a large rock, probably 15 pounds. I threw the rock. It landed with a bang about ten feet in front of where I was standing. The ice held; I cautiously slid out, and heaved the rock another ten feet. I repeated this experiment, venturing further and further from shore.
Eventually I came to the conclusion that the surface was adequate for my weight, and I began to trust the ice. Then the fun began! Running and sliding, skating on my street shoes, jumping up and down. An hour I’ll never forget. Eventually when I told the story to my Jersey friends, they had a good laugh. The ice on those lakes was two or three feet thick by that time of winter; a truck could drive safely across.
I learned a powerful lesson about faith that day. At first my faith was fragile: weak and frightened, I cautiously tested the ice step by step. As I began to experience and trust what lay beneath my feet, I relaxed until I rested my very life on it. Then and only then, I began to have real fun.
If I had boldly strutted with chutzpah (i.e., “great faith”) onto ice that was a quarter inch thick, covered over with newly fallen snow that obscured its thinness, I would have fallen to my death – my confidence non-withstanding. On the other hand, my weak faith in solid ice, even when I doubted, kept me safe as a baby in a government approved car seat. “Great” faith or small faith is not the issue. It is really about the thickness of the ice.
This Sunday we celebrate the historical fact, the heart of the Christian faith, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”
The joy of this Sunday is that the object of our faith – the ground of our souls – is very “thick ice”. He is a Person who, in every reasonable way accessible to knowledge, lived, died, was buried, and rose again in space, time and history.
The reality of this historical event called the Resurrection beckons us to test the ice. Test and find him worthy of your whole heart, soul, and life. Taste, follow, obey, abide. He IS Risen! He is risen INDEED! Now go out and have some fun. Hallelujah! (Sorry: it wouldn’t stay locked up any longer.)
Bishop Steve Breedlove