Easter comes and goes every year for me. I start Lent off with great intentions to fast, or read through a book or do something pointedly looking towards that glorious Easter Sunday when I can finally overload on chocolate or feel pride in getting past page 4.
I know as a Christian Easter is something I am supposed to be excited about and generally I am. This year has been the first time in my life that I haven’t been with my whole extended family in Northern Ireland for Easter. I miss Cadbury’s chocolate, I miss the blood thirsty fight my cousins and I used to have over the egg hunt, I miss the cryptic clues my aunt left us. But, some of us have kids of our own now and we’re all probably a little old for that now. (Probably..) Times change. Time to pass on the clues to someone else. Traditions change. Or at least they should.
This year I have been equally blessed to start new traditions with Brittany. Chocolate has been replaced with biscuits and bacon for breakfast. This is good. It’s never about leaving the old things behind as if they never occurred but about being grateful that I had the experience in the first place. That I have a family that love me and whom I love.
Every year we talk about the true meaning of Easter and Christmas. We talk about our sins forgiven, about new life, about hope. The commercialism of Christmas and to some extent Easter has been seen as anti the true messages of the birth of our savior and His ultimate death and resurrection.
Yet these are not the true reasons that the message is being lost, if it is at all.
We’re the reason.
If Easter is about Jesus death and ultimate resurrection offering life and freedom for all our job is not to simply celebrate this once a year but to celebrate it every single day. Our job is not to continually look back on a mysterious, confusing event thousands of years ago so we can remind ourselves we’re out of here soon. Our job is to look back and remind ourselves that Heaven is at hand right now.
That when things seem weird or full of despair it’s as Frederich Buechner said, “the worst isn’t the last thing about the world”. We all know of course, this is not always the easiest thing to believe.
The disciples are sometimes depicted as not the brightest bunch. After all it took Jesus many times of saying something before they got it and even when Jesus rose from the tomb some of them still didn’t get what was going on. They thought they understood Jesus. Then He died and they didn’t know what to think. He rose and still they were not sure.
Of course we have the hindsight of thousands of years to think through and listen to what Jesus is doing but so often we are just like the disciples and confused and doubtful that Jesus is really alive at all.
In some ways, nothing has changed. And of course, everything has.
What struck me this Easter, perhaps for the first time, is how for the disciples this wasn’t a completely joyous time. After the trauma of seeing their friend killed on Friday, the despair and questions of Saturday, to even the unbelief and strangeness of Sunday, it was just a weird time.
Even so, there was no doubt of the end result. The disciples may not have seen it coming, they may not have understood but Jesus came back to life and was always going to, regardless of how it looked.
Honestly I spend most of my time not believing that Jesus has risen. I still doubt that I am loved, I still doubt that I am secure and I still go looking in all the wrong places. Most of us do. We limit the cross to a ticket out of here. We can’t quite get our head around the fact that death does not have ultimate power over us and constantly raise our shields up from attack.
From people that don’t agree with us to the ideas about ourselves that cause us to hurt. We put stipulations on Grace because we really don’t want everyone to be welcome. We decide who is in and who is out.
We deny the power of Jesus to work in new and incredible ways by making Easter about getting to Heaven. Which is great until we start to tell you how that’s supposed to work for you.
But this is not the message of Easter. It is not the way that Jesus calls us to live.
Before Easter the comedian, philosopher and prophet Russell Brand tweeted..
Summed up in one tweet is the true meaning of Easter. Easter is not about securing our place for a one time event in the future but about a new way of existing where Love is the fundamental basis to everything we do.
When Jesus first appeared to the women at the tomb He told them “Don’t be afraid.
Later as Jesus appeared to the disciples He spoke the words “Peace be with you.”
Then He asked them to go and make disciples.
Do not be afraid. Relax. There is peace for you. No need to go on the offensive. No need to be afraid of what will happen. You don’t need to win fights for me. It’s going to be ok.
Easter says that Heaven is at hand. It’s here. It’s everyone who is different than you. It’s in the moments when it seems all is lost. We don’t have to wait anymore. We just need to have eyes to see and feet to go.
Then Jesus shares a final command to share this same peace with others.
This is not a message of fear. This was not a war cry. It was not a call to make sure that we keep God in our schools or deny people the right to marriage. It was not a “hang on in there, I’ll be back to rescue you later”
It was a, there’s work to do. This is for the people you think it’s not. It doesn’t end here.
It’s only just beginning.
Because Easter is not just the third day, it’s tomorrow too.