My pastor during childhood was a man called Father Elmer. Toward the end of winter he visited the Sunday school classes to teach the children something about the concept of resurrection. Little kids aren’t interested or equipped to analyze holy texts. We wanted to know how Jesus could die, but not stay dead. Just saying that Jesus was God (in disguise?) and therefore unkillable wasn’t a sufficient answer. Did it work like with zombies?
Father Elmer brought us a paper bag of odd little purple lumps. They looked like hard, squashed, half-petrified onions. They didn’t look very promising. He had us examine the blobs carefully. He was an extremely gentle teacher and would ask us questions about our observations. We expressed our view that these things looked like they had been thrown out. He said, ‘They look kind of dead, don’t they?” We agreed. Then he led us all outside.
Winter in the Midwest is the real deal. The temperature often dips below freezing and stays there for months. The trees go bare and the grass turns brown and disappears. There are no mountains and the land is mostly flat. When the snow comes, it looks like the surface of the moon. Father Elmer said, “This looks dead too, doesn’t it?” We agreed.
He took us out in the back of the church to a cleared patch of dirt. There was a bucket with little trowels, and a watering can. He handed the trowels out to us, and had us dig holes a few inches deep about a foot apart, in a row. We placed each bulb with the wider part down, covered them with dirt and poured some water on them.
We went inside to our classroom and all sat down again. Father Elmer then revealed the secret of resurrection, in a form any child can understand.
“Sometimes things merely appear to be dead, and they won’t stay that way. Even if we look carefully, we can’t see any signs of life. Life can return to anything or anyone, if God wishes it. In winter, the Earth looks dead. In spring, it will come back to life.”
Father Elmer died while I was still a child. Perhaps it’s a matter of appearance. During holy week, our beautiful gladiolus flowers came up, just in time for Easter.