There are dozens of Easter songs about rising and resurrection. All of them have spiritually uplifting messages about Christ’s—and therefore OUR—rising from the dead. One inspirational song about rising is about flood waters. Johnny Cash wrote “How High’s the Water, Momma” about a 1937 Mississippi flood that drove him and his family out of their home. As a preamble to the song, Cash wrote:

My mama always taught me that good things come from adversity if we put our faith in the Lord. We couldn’t see much good in the flood waters when they were causing us to have to leave home, but when the water went down, we found that it had washed a load of rich black bottom dirt across our land. The following year we had the best cotton crop we’d ever had.”

Cash would later tell a writer covering one of his famous prison concerts that he found something uplifting in songs about hard times—maybe because “someone cared enough about troubled people to write songs about them.”

Easter Sunday is the account of someone caring enough about troubled people to die so they may rise above their troubles. As Jesus taught, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (JOHN 12:24)

In Easter Sunday’s first reading from Acts (Acts 10:34a, 37-43), Jesus is what jazz singer Billie Holiday might have described as “strange fruit,” hanging on the “tree” the writer of this account called the cross Jesus was nailed to. But as with the aftermath of Johnny Cash’s rising flood waters, humanity is promised a sweeter realization rising from the dirt of its deadly sins:

“… that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

As Paul advises the Colossians in Sunday’s second reading (Col 3:1-4), only by dying-to and rising-above the earthly troubles surrounding us can we see God’s plan for us.

Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.

The gospel reading from John for Easter (Jn 20:1-9) tells us that even Jesus’s disciples had trouble getting their heads around the idea of rising from death—even though their master promised that outcome. They had to see the physical evidence in the empty tomb Mary Magdalene told them about. It was only after John followed Simon Peter into that tomb to view the aftermath of their Master’s rising that they saw and believed …

… for they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

The ministry resulting from their understanding bore much fruit through the centuries. It’s a prison ministry designed to set us captives free. Who says prison food is lousy?

–Tom Andel