It isn't an accident Easter is in the spring. Spring is the time of new life on trees and foliage. It is lambing season and the time of new birth in the animal world. It is the reason bunnies and eggs are associated with Easter. (Cadbury combines them both) Just as Christmas takes advantage of the pagan festival of the winter solstice, so too Easter (the name comes from the goddess Eastare) is placed in the center of spring fertility rites and nature's cycle of rebirth...for Easter is a celebration of life and love and a new relationship between God and us.
Christians are Easter people. You cannot be a Christian if you don't believe in resurrection. (while no one has to be a Christian, if you call yourself one, then Easter is at the center of your theology) I have written and talked before how the message of Easter is that Jesus opened a relationship with God, the depth of which had never existed before. This relationship is endless and thus death is no longer something to be feared.
The Good News (gospel) is we go...On. Why is that so hard to believe? Before any of us were born, we didn't exist. Our birth is the creation of something unique which will never be duplicated again. Yet, we view this coming into existence from nothing as an everyday occurrence worthy of little thought or examination. At the same time, the idea our essence, (soul?) continues to exist after our body ceases to function is somehow spooky, otherworldly, incomprehensible and we harbor grave doubts about its reality. Birth is nothing to get religious about, but continuing on is the stuff of faith. (Einstein says you can't destroy energy...only change it. The essence of who we are is the energy which enervates us. Why is it so difficult believing that energy is immortal?)
Much of the emphasis on resurrection at Easter, masks even better news. Jesus spent his public life teaching people how to live, be at peace, not be afraid and have a full life. He taught by example and promised if you lived like he did...forgive an infinite number of times...turn the other cheek...love your enemy...clothe the naked...feed the hungry...heal the sick...do for the least of your brothers and sisters...you would be happy and fulfilled and be so close to God it would be as if you were Mother and child.
The Good News is you can have this amazing life. How many of us live in fear on a daily basis? How many of us go to bed worried and troubled? How many of us search for and seek out some way to improve our lives and how much money is spent trying to buy, manufacture, lease or in some way obtain happiness? Our entire capitalist economy is based on consumption and consuming. We are promised happiness is contained in a sleep number bed, light beer, Carnival cruise, man-cave (with its 80 inch flat screen TV, surround sound, streaming video and bar). We are bombarded with the message we can buy the peace and happiness we desire. Easter is the antithesis of this quintessential American message. (and perhaps why so many Americans have trouble adopting the way of life it points to)
Jesus spends his public life trying to convince others of what He knows. God loves us...wants to be loved in return...wants to communicate with us...wants us to have a full life in which to draw nearer and closer to Her. His is the most radical philosophy of living ever proposed. It threatened the power structure then, just as it would now if it ever truly catches on. In the end, Jesus dies because of how much He loves us and his absolute conviction death doesn't end his relationship with God. Easter is the fulfillment of that belief.
On this Easter Sunday, if I were still hosting God talk, we would have started with Sandi Patti singing, "Was It A Morning Like This?" I would greet you with," Alleluia, Alleluia, He is risen." We would spend three hours celebrating this central event of the Christian story. However, since my sins destroyed all of that and hurt so many, I write to you and hope you can breathe in this life-altering message.
If you are worried, scared, lonely or despair about life...STOP. If you go to sleep hoping tomorrow will somehow be better than today...STOP. If you are sad and searching for happiness or don't feel life is what it should be for you...STOP. If peace is something you look for "out there" and think it is something external to yourself...STOP. On this Easter Sunday, we celebrate life and the Good News that a full life is yours if you want it. We give thanks for all we have been given and look to share with others. We gather with family and friends to share a meal and enjoy the Spirit among us. I am separated from those I love the most, yet my sadness is tempered because I have been given so much and know they love me as I love them. I'm forgiven by God and them, and the distance which separates us is not insurmountable. I have all of you and you are always in my thoughts and prayers. In the upper room, Jesus greets his friends with, "...peace, do not be afraid." On this Easter Sunday that wish is offered to all of us.
HAPPY EASTER ! !