Please tell us the story of when you were saved. There it was on the application form we needed to fill out to get our daughter into the kindergarten class for four year-olds at a local Christian school. Of all the options in our town for school or daycare programs, this one had the best reputation. (There were no public K-4 programs at the time.) Of course, the question was directed to Emma’s parents—to Dave and to me. Emma was only four and had not yet reached what is commonly known in evangelical circles as the “age of accountability”—the age when she alone would be responsible for her salvation. How could she be expected to have already had a salvation experience? Or to make a declaration of faith?
Please tell us the story of when you were saved. Having grown up in the rural south, Dave and I knew what was expected of us. At the least, we were to describe in vibrant detail that moment when we knew that all we had been taught about God was really true—a personal experience of God’s forgiveness, of God’s mercy, of a love that anchored the entire world. It would be better still if we had a more dramatic “born again” experience that marked our spiritual journey—like a moment when we sold a three million dollar home and gave the proceeds to benefit overseas missions, or when one of us went from being an atheist to passing out Christian pamphlets on the street corner, or when we gave up AC/DC records and began listening only to Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. I know that there are sincere, dramatic conversion experiences. But, alas, Dave and I had no such interesting stories to tell. (And I still listen to AC/DC.)
Please tell us the story of when you were saved. I have known incredibly kind, faithful people who long for but have never had dramatic “born again” experiences. They yearn to know the power of God’s love in ways that would turn their lives upside down, leaving them obviously and forever changed in the blink of an eye. They long for the blustery Easter Vigil God who acts in sweeping, cosmic proportions to save God’s people. Who could blame them?
Tonight we hear of a theatrical God who fashions a world out of a formless void; we tell of a God who rescues God’s people from an army that pursues them; we recount the story of a God who can take dry bones and make them grow vessels, flesh, and skin, and in the process restore a whole people; and we proclaim a God who gives all of God’s self to a world God loves, even to the point of death, only then not to remain captive to a grave but to rise in all God’s glory. Let’s face it, this is a night of fast-paced drama, narrow escapes, harrowing passages, and spectacular rescues—stories chock full of swirling waters, earthquakes, and surprise appearances.
And yet this service conveys another truth as well. The Jewish day begins at nightfall, and so we begin this service as the sun sets and a hush settles on the neighborhood. This evening there is a small procession, but no Easter parade; a flame is brought from the courtyard into the church, but there is no grand display of fireworks; we shout “alleluia,” but not at the same decibel level as the cheers of March Madness crowds. Perhaps this relatively understated arrival of Easter is fitting.
After all, Jesus’ resurrection takes place in the still of night. When the women arrive at the tomb at dawn, the stone has been rolled away and the body is gone. The resurrection has already happened—silently, without fanfare and without audience. In her book Learning to Walk in the Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor writes:
As many years as I have been listening to Easter sermons, I have never heard anyone talk about that part. Resurrection is always announced with Easter lilies, the sounds of trumpets, bright streaming light. But it did not happen that way. If it happened in a cave, it happened in complete silence, in absolute darkness, with the smell of damp stone and dug earth in the air. … New life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.
Resurrection isn’t always accompanied by bright lights and party music. It usually happens in the most ordinary moments, often slipping in quietly. We find resurrection in the forgiveness of a family member, when a Guatemalan woman puts on glasses and for the first time can see an object on the floor, when someone who struggles with addiction passes by a liquor store without stopping, in the smile of a person who has experienced a stifling depression. Resurrection happens in the here and now, in this moment we are in. It may not be a sudden theatrical event like those we read about tonight. But just as the Grand Canyon was formed by the Colorado River and its tributaries over four million years, these smaller resurrection experiences shape our lives over time in very powerful, salvific ways. Being born again is a process more than an event.
Please tell us the story of when you were saved. I wish I had had the courage and the wisdom to reply this way: I was saved two thousand years ago when Jesus lived and died and rose again. I was also saved when my father taught me about the solar system in all its glory, when my mother laughed with me, when I walked the aisle of my Baptist church when I was fifteen, when I watched parents whose newborn had just died talk about the beauty of her face, when I first held each of my own children, every time I kneel for communion, and every time the sun shines brightly after a rain. The list could cover a hundred pages, back and front.
On this night most of all, don’t let the many Easters of your life pass by unnoticed while you’re waiting for that one dramatic event that lands you on Christian talk shows and upends your whole life’s routine. God’s saving love never sleeps; resurrection is at work in our lives every second of every day, if only we have the eyes to see it.
 Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark (New York: HarperOne, 2014) 129.