Easter is my favorite holiday. I love the Easter eggs, the flowers, the music, and the sheer and unrestrained joy. And I love celebrating Easter with our church community.
Admittedly with each passing year I find myself becoming increasingly aware of the disconnect between what I am celebrating and what is being trumpeted all around me. In fairness, I have probably moved as much as anyone. Likely this is not so much about tradition moving (by definition it moves slowly) but rather of a pastor’s sojourn into a post-modern experience. While the mainline Christians may have been sidelined and then flat-lined (thank you, Steve Patterson!), I find myself in the strange company often called “progressive Christianity” which seems to be the remnant who’ve held onto the label but dispensed with the dogma.
In these last days leading up to Easter, progressive Christians find themselves in something of a predicament. While our religion is nominally dominant in our culture, the cultural messages about this holiday bare little resemblance to what we actually believe. Tragically, much of what passes itself as an Easter message in pop culture is anathema to those of us who may not believe the church about Jesus but who do believe Jesus about God.
Easter is not, for me, about the necessity of Jesus’ suffering and death but rather about a sacred presence that defies the worst our kind can do. Easter is not sacrificial atonement, the idea that someone else suffered so that I won’t, but rather the assurance that in the deepest of nights, we can be at one with the source of life itself.
Easter is the encounter with the sacred that held Etty Hillesum’s spirit as she faced the Holocaust, allowing her to write: “Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world.”
Easter is the encounter with source of life that empowered Desmond Tutu to lead the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, the selfless workers to enter the dangerous Fukushima Power Plant, and the people of Egypt and Wisconsin to stand this year in solidarity.
Easter is the unlikely promise that new growth follows the forest fire, the sun shines after the storm, and the joy of birth follows the trauma of labor. Easter is hitting a wall, falling on one’s knees, and finding new life.
Easter is not a supersession of nature but rather recognition of the miracle therein.
Easter is “yes” when “no” seems inevitable. Easter is a refusal to let suffering be the last word, an insistence that the worth of Jesus’ message trumped even the Roman Empire. Easter reverberates all around us in the natural world and this promise of life’s longing for itself is what I choose to celebrate.
What will you celebrate this Sunday?