We say that as Christians we’re an Easter people, a Resurrection people. I believe that and have given an enthusiastic “He is risen. He is risen indeed!” I don’t know if it was because Easter was so late in the season this year but I started off pretty well at the beginning of Lent in trying to be intentional about this journey to the cross, but as the semester began to draw to a close and the to do list piled up, our car was totaled and we were depending on just one car, three of us had strep throat, and we moved everything out of my grandparent’s house, Easter somehow got lost in the shuffle and all the upheaval of life.
A clergy friend of mine posted the other day that Lent and Holy Week are her favorite time of the year. I love spring and the flowers and the sun out more (even though we haven’t seen that as much yet). I love the smell and feel in the air as people begin to come outside and play volleyball in the sand at Winthrop Lake, go on walks in the evening, and enjoy time on your front or back porch. The transition from winter to spring is an amazing one and I know that very easily makes a symbolic leap to death and the resurrection. So don’t get me wrong, I love this time of year, but I can’t say that I enjoy Good Friday. It’s like Saving Private Ryan or Schindler’s List where it’s not something that you watch every day to lift your spirits, but it’s something you know you need to watch at least once to recognize the sacrifice and the weight of what was cost.
I hate to pick favorite anything’s but Advent and Christmas are probably hands down my favorite time of year. It’s such a powerful witness to me that the great God of the universe decided to come as a baby and dwell among us. Emmanuel, fully human and fully divine, is such a super big deal. You can’t have Easter without that in-breaking of the kingdom where God became a vulnerable baby right here in all of our human frailty and all the kaleidoscope of human experience. In some ways it’s the same reasons that I love watching The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston the night before Easter every year. There’s something about when Moses says,” I want to know God,” as he longs to go on the mountain, and something sacred and special about this God who speaks and delivers the people. There’s something about Ramses in the movie when challenged to cry out to his gods for help saying about Moses’ God, “His God, is God.” A God that could have anything or do anything God wants, that chooses to be in relationship with God’s people, that chooses to bring deliverance and justice, and that chooses to be present in the midst of suffering – that is something more powerful than any adjective could describe.
In thinking about Easter, I think a lot of my unease is around Good Friday. It’s easy for us to lift up the tiny baby Jesus a la Ricky Bobby or in pictures and greeting cards, but you don’t see people sending out greeting cards or putting giant pictures of Jesus still hanging on the cross, crucified with the nails and the blood and the crown of thorns. It’s easy to believe in this present and loving God that chooses to be with us, it’s a little harder to take the responsibility that all the suffering he did on the cross was for us. That’s a little more weighty and pricks our pride a bit for those that think works or merit or self-seeking is what makes things happen, which is why I think we often rush straight from Palm Sunday right on to Easter and the resurrection. We know it ends well and it’s all good and grace for us, but it’s hard to hear the words from Gethsemane, “Father, take this cup from me.” It’s hard to read about the suffering much less watch anything like the Passion where we get an up-close and personal look. If we really believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. If we believe that this innocent man was martyred for us, how does that change how we live our lives? Does it? Sometimes Easter makes the sacrifice look easy and the grace that’s thrown out in bushel-full’s seem simple. But then I think about Peter and the other disciple running as fast as they can to the tomb and Mary weeping there. This was real and personal and not something just long ago, but something that affects each of us as Jesus calls our name.
How would you describe Easter? How would you describe what Jesus did? Using real life language, what would you say? In thinking about how to describe the Easter story to Enoch and Evy in ways that they understand, do I just pop in a Veggie Tales video on Easter or read them a children’s book or hope they pick up something at church? How do we explain to the world what Easter means, not just the cute little baby Jesus, but the full scope of the story?
There’s a line to a song that I heard the other day that says “there’s no hope without suffering.” There’s no hope without suffering. I don’t know if that’s wholly true all the time, but I do believe that the hope born from suffering is a real and sustaining hope indeed. What kind of resurrection hope are we offering our world? This isn’t a hope that tells you that everything in life is going to be easy or rainbows and butterflies. It’s much like our South Carolina motto, “While I breathe, I hope.” This is a hope that says that no matter what, even on the darkest of days, that God is with you. Sin and death have been conquered and new life, eternal life, abundant life, is offered in Christ. No more do we have to make the same mistakes over and over, but through the power and grace of God and the Spirit that intercedes for us, we have the promise of something more in this life and a story unfolding far more magnificent, magical, and miraculous than any royal wedding, any Lifetime or Hallmark movie, or anything we may try to do on our own. Beyond any “greatest story ever told” this God of Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter, and everything in between – this God is seeking us and calling us to live this resurrection life out loud in the world by loving God, loving our neighbor, and loving ourselves to know that we don’t have to do it all, but we just have to depend on the One who did it for us.
Still love this song for Easter…
Want to see a fun Easter flashmob RISE UP? http://blog.lproof.org/2011/04/glorious-resurrection-day.html