As a relative newcomer to the desert, I still struggle to see signs of life that more experienced desert-dwellers recognize quite easily. My midwest gardening instincts don’t work so well here and after three years, I’m still discovering the “new normal” in terms of what defines a killing frost, a drought and even death.

Just as it takes a while for newcomers to realize that what looks like a bunch of dead sticks are actually dormant stems of the spiny beauty, Fouquieria splendens (a.k.a. Desert Ocotillo), the disciples of Jesus in those heady post-resurrection days were confused by what looked to them like death. This resurrection business was completely new to them. Their Galilean fishing instincts were completely useless to them. Though they surely knew how to recognize the signs of the weather and the seas, nothing in their experience told them what resurrection looked like, let alone what it meant. As Jesus walked and ate and talked with them, “their eyes were opened” to the reality of the resurrection. This was not some distant promise of life after death. It wasn’t some plan of God that involved eternal glory even though suffering and grief continued on earth. It was the very real presence of the very real risen Christ in their midst – journeying with them, guiding and sustaining them with his Spirit. No deferred grace for those disciples – only the immediate joy of new hope in the midst of their darkest days.

These signs of hope surround us. At Palo Cristi, we see those signs in new members, new leaders, new babies. We can even see them walking into the sanctuary from the parking lot as the prickly pear and saguaro buds are on the verge of sharing a splendorous display. We know our Redeemer lives because we have witnesses like Donna Anderson who testified to us about that grace in her life. We have resurrection hope because the seeds of God’s love have taken root in us and have already born fruit as we shared that love at the Phoenix Pride Parade, with the Agua Fria Food Bank, and with friends and neighbors in need.

Composer Natalie Sleeth wrote an Easter hymn that describes the kind of resurrection hope that we can find all around us.

In the bulb there is a flower, in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise, butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future, what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning, in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing, in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season something God alone can see.

The signs of the resurrection are plentiful! Like the desert gardeners of Phoenix, we just have to teach our eyes, our minds, our hearts to recognize God’s grace at work even when the contrary seems to be true. The Lord is Risen! He is risen indeed!

2 thoughts on “Testify!

  1. Beautiful, Deb. Can you share a little about the witness to grace that Donna Anderson gave you all? What a lovely lady! I am so sad that she is gone. –Cynthia J.

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