<< So, how do we celebrate Easter? I don’t mean the holiday. We have our pastels and flowers, our egg hunt for the children, and our songs of joy in life, and that’s all good. I have no quarrel with the holiday. But my question is, How do we affirm Easter out there in the world when the candy is gone and the eggs have all been found, when the hallelujahs have been sung and the new outfits sent to the cleaners? >>
That short paragraph comes from my final Easter sermon preached as pastor of a church, which makes it now eleven years old. The sermon was titled, “Easter Makes It Personal,” and I needed to reread it today.
I fear that Easter, the Christian religious holy day and not just the springtime cultural festival, has been co-opted by our prevailing dedication to positivity to such an extent that Jesus’ suffering, shame, and death are made to seem nothing more than a hurdle between Hosanna! and Hallelujah! or worse, as the full sermon points out, a parading of triumph for the “good guys” (Christians) over Christ’s presumed foes. From the sermon:
<< It has long been popular to see Jesus’ resurrection as his triumph over his foes, the evil doers who tortured, mocked, and killed him. So we Christians put ourselves on the good side, the righteous side, as we put the Jews or Romans or unbelievers on the bad side. That’s false. Jesus gave himself for those estranged from God, and his resurrection does not overcome his self-giving love, his suffering and dying on the cross. It does not put the cross conveniently behind us. Quite the opposite, Easter establishes Jesus’ crucifixion as the full truth of God, the complete act of redemptive love that gives us new life and hope. Because of the resurrection, the cross stands forever as the truth of God’s unrelenting love for us and commitment to getting us back. >>
These are some of my thoughts for Easter eleven years after my retirement. Here is the full sermon (click on the word) for anyone interested. As long as there are seemingly “God-forsaken” people in this world (and there are very many), as long as the shamed and scorned continue to cry out, “Why?” to God or to a silent sky, we will continue to be called to serve, not only in the name of Jesus Christ, but in the way of this Christ who was crucified in solidarity with them. As long as they are the rejected, he continues to be the rejected. As long as they are put out of office and service for being uppity, he will be the one of whom people (in his hometown) ask, “Who does he think he is?” Yes, we celebrate Easter and the great hope it represents for us and our world, but, as the sermon says, we live on this side of resurrection where life is messy and often brutal, and so, therefore, does the Spirit of God.