Like many of you, I have had more than the usual amount of yard work this spring. The hard freeze this winter took a serious toll on my yard, and there has been a lot of cutting back. I had a few plants and a couple of palm trees that I thought were goners, but as the days have grown longer and the nights warmer, there are new buds and bits of green; signs of life to remind me that death does not get the last word. At its heart, that is the Easter message. Death does not get the last word. What St. Paul called the powers and principalities threw everything they had at Jesus, but death did not get the last word. He challenged the powers - religious and civil - insisted that justice and love takes priority over law and tradition. The powers saw it as a threat; perceived him to be a confused mystic at best, or a crazed anarchist. Even the common folk were spooked when he refused to back down in the face of threats. They crowded in to see him, maybe get something from him, but he scared them, and they ran him out of town, and abandoned him when the powers did their worst. But when what they thought was ultimate power was exercised, death did not get the last word. Life emerged from death. I grew up in a very small town. Wilf Hirsch was, for lack of a more polite term, the town drunk. I didn't exactly understand it then, just thought he liked sitting in the window of the bank all day, sometimes waving at everyone, sometimes sleeping. He always talked to me like we had a special relationship. I thought it was because he knew our family. Dad was the only doctor in town and when Wilf couldn't find him at the office, he'd come to our house, always willing to enjoy a cup of mom's coffee. She didn't approve of his drinking or the trouble it got him into, but she knew he'd had a hard life. A head wound in the Korean War left him unable to tend his farm and he eventually lost it. Other than occasional handyman jobs, there was little in life he could manage. Dad took care of him when he was sick, stitched up his wounds when there was trouble down at the tavern, and insisted that we all call him Mr. Hirsch. I was later to learn that Wilf and I did have a special relationship. I had been desperately ill as an infant and in need of blood transfusions. Wilf Hirsch quit drinking when he heard the news. He quit drinking for quite a while in fact, and he showed up at my dad's office, sober as a judge and better groomed than usual, ready to give his blood for me. He said it was the least he could do. Death does not get the last word, not for any of us. Not for those who do all the right things and not for down-on-their-luck farmers who are just trying to make it to the next day. Easter and spring remind us of that. New life emerges from that which was most certainly dead to remind us that death does not get the last word. And in a world that seems to be in a long, dark winter, how we need a reminder. Steve Hammer is the associate pastor at Esperanza Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee Foothills.

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