Chaplain Norris Burkes (copy) (copy)

Chaplain Norris Burkes. Photo by Wade Spees. June 6, 2014.

While Easter Sunday is the day we celebrate Jesus’ biggest miracle, the resurrection, I have friends who jokingly suggest I attempt one of his lesser miracles.

For instance, a dinner guest might humorously propose that I turn a glass of restaurant water into wine. Or a hungry friend will ask if I can transform stones into bread.

I often come back with a flippant apology: “I’m sorry, I can’t. I cut seminary class the day those miracles were taught.”

I might receive a charitable chuckle, but I don’t usually hear any levity from them when the subject is the resurrection phenomenon.

That’s because people want to believe the Easter story. If they are true to their own mortality, they make little space to jest about their own death.

However, this Easter, I ask you to consider the serious odds that Jesus was actually resurrected. Did it really happen?

Will you admit that the odds of Jesus exhuming himself from his tomb are infinitesimally low?

No, of course you can’t. That assertion would be dishonest.

It would be more candid to say the odds are nil, nonexistent. In Vegas terms, “There is no bet on the table.”

No, the chaplain hasn’t gone rogue agnostic. I remain a Christian, counting myself among millions who put their faith in the impossible.

Why? Is it because I reside neck-deep in denial? Am I the sort who declares a blackened sky to be blue? Would I dare call the oceans dry? Am I one to declare a circle to be square?

No, of course not.

Then why do I still believe in the resurrection?

Like many of you, the resurrection testifies to an afterlife where I will one day see my father, resolve my wrongs and have my pains healed. The resurrection assures me that I am never alone, now or in the afterlife.

My belief is built on my observations in the here-and-now, more than it is on the by-and-by of someday. My conviction comes from what I have experienced in my everyday life as a chaplain in both the hospital and on the battlefield.

For instance, as a pastor, I stood with those who hurt with unimaginable pain. I watched hope restored to the penniless. I celebrated the reunifying of broken families and saw marriages reborn. I experienced the forgiveness offered by a congregation.

As a chaplain, I saw a child resuscitated from the bottom of a pond. I was present when soldiers were pulled from the battlefield and returned to duty. I sat with hospice patients as they described a world far beyond mine. I served with many commanders who made selfless and brave decisions.

As a parent, I saw hope restored in my son. I rejoiced over the breathless resuscitation of my daughter. I celebrated the daughter that turned from homeless to homeowner. I watched the healing restoration of another daughter after a divorce.

The resurrection is all around us. Open your heart. Stop counting the long-shot odds and you will see endless examples.

For Easter, I offer this prayer to help you begin your journey into belief:

Lord of the Resurrection,

I confess I have failed you in many ways.

There are hopes I have crushed.

There are dreams I have buried.

There are those whom I’ve crucified with my criticisms.

I ask your help in burying my old self.

Inter my hurts.

Entomb my anger.

Bury my selfish desires.

Today I seek a resurrection.

Grant a new hope to rise within me.

Bestow a new dream to inspire others.

Confer in me a humility that seeks the resurrection of all.

I ask these things because

Your resurrected Son knew betrayal.

Your resurrected Son realized his mortality.

Your resurrected Son conquered death for all.

Amen.

Contact Norris Burkes at comment@thechaplain.net or 10566 Combie Road, Suite 6643, Auburn, CA 95602 or voicemail 843-608-9715.

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