The story is told of a man : let's call him 'Adam' : who was out walking, not paying much attention to where he was going. Having come upon hard times, he felt overwhelmed. Lost in self-pity, he took a wrong step and fell into a deep hole, suffering scrapes and bruises but not breaking any bones. But he was hurt and the hole was deep. He couldn't climb out. So he began shouting for help.
A passerby, a doctor, heard him and stopped. Adam yelled out, "Help me get out of this hole!" The doctor said he'd like to help but couldn't since he was already late for his work at the clinic; but he did take time to write Adam a prescription and dropped it into the hole. Then a priest came by and heard Adam's shouts. When Adam told him what happened, the priest said he'd like to help, but he was late for a church service, however he offered Adam a quick prayer and continued on his way.
Soon a third passerby heard his cries : a long-time friend of Adam who recognized Adam's voice. This friend looked down the hole at his poor, suffering friend. Adam recognized his friend and his hopes were quickly raised! But then the friend did something totally unexpected: he didn't run for an extension ladder. He didn't call 911. He simply jumped into that hole himself and landed right next to Adam! "Why, oh why did you do that?" a surprised Adam asked. "Now neither of us have a way out!" But the friend looked right into Adam's eyes, in fact he looked right into Adam's heart and said: "Adam, I've been in the hole before. I know the way out. In fact, Adam, I AM the way out. I am the Way, the Truth and the Life!"
You and I are the Adam (or Eve) in this story. No matter what setbacks, sorrows and disappointments we experience in life : no matter what deep holes we fall into : there is always a way out. There is no need to feel overwhelmed or depressed so long as we have our Friend with us, "in the hole," so to speak. In this past week, we recalled some terrifying holes that Jesus fell into: betrayed by Judas, deserted by his closest friends, repeated denials by his trusted disciple Peter, the absolute wickedness of the religious and political authorities demanding his death, the torturing of his body, the horrifyingly painful crucifixion, and then the unspeakable silence of "that big hole," that cave-like tomb with its heavy rock sealing him within! Talk about a deep, dark, black hole of utter and complete failure and rejection! But Jesus climbed out! He arose Easter morning!
So we are NOT without hope. The Resurrection of Jesus gives every Adam and Eve the hope we need. That hope enables us to climb out of any hole to celebrate life and the goodness of God. We celebrate life by loving as Jesus loved, by serving as Jesus served, by approaching life with a profound joy. In our creed this morning we pray: "...through suffering and death to resurrection!" Because Jesus is risen, we too will rise. Joy is our right and our heritage! Someone once said that the most reliable sign of a true disciple of Jesus is JOY! You and I need to embrace that joy and reflect that joy for others to witness, for we are the Easter people!