Easter: A Church-meh User’s Guide
Why is Easter called “the most important day in the Christian calendar”?
Easter celebrates the central miracle in the Christian story: that Jesus, the man from Nazareth, died on the cross and yet rose again three days later, because he was not just a man, but also “the Christ” (which is Greek for “anointed one”), the Son of God.
Easter is the day when this occurred, and when his followers truly began to understand the truth about who he was for the first time.
What if that seems a little “woo woo” to me?
It’s hard to be a Christian without some kind of relationship to Easter.
I don’t mean that judgmentally, but in the more specific sense that Easter is the warrant for a lot of key claims about Christian life and values.
For example, if we are moved by the idea that Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, maybe that’s because we just really, really like peace.
But if we understand peacemaking as some sort of broader duty, rather than as just a personal preference or a strategy of some kind for getting what we really want, we need to understand how peacemaking operates as a “should.” For Christian tradition, Easter is the backing for that sort of “should.”
In response to such questions, it’s how Christians have been taught to answer, “Because God said so.” Easter is why we believe it’s actually God who said it: because Jesus is not dead, but risen…the very Son of God.
No offense, but I’m not really working on that level with this stuff. Can’t I just enjoy the flowers and the trumpets and the ladies in their hats?
Of course! No matter what your faith looks like or “how much you have” (which is an expression I don’t like at all), you should feel free to be part of a church service, and never feel guilty about enjoying what you enjoy about it.
Even so, give a tip of your bunny ears to the symbolism of joy and new life expressed in so many ways on Easter.
Most of us know the powers of diminishment and death. Whatever their specific forms in our lives (and there are many), these powers are all too familiar and all too real. Brokenness is a thing, whether it is personal or collective, ethical or political, cultural or environmental.
Easter is saying that, despite what might first appear, these powers that break us do not have the final word.
It’s saying we shouldn’t be fooled into despair and inaction.
It’s hope is that, once we begin to see the power of resurrection, or imagine the possibility of new life, our confidence in its power will grow even stronger.
So why has Christmas become bigger than Easter?
But we shouldn’t be snarky. I think Christmas has developed practices that anyone can take part in, and which hold a lot of meaning. There are so many ways to say “I love you” at Christmas, and so many people who ache to know that they are loved. There is tremendous power in that, and Christmas brings it out in us.
Jellybeans really can’t compete with that.
But new life surely could.
In that spirit, sometimes I wonder what it might be like if Easter developed its own practices of giving.
What if on Easter, the people closest to us had the right to request one gift from us–one way in which our life together might be made new?
For every sixteen year old who took it as an opportunity to ask for her own car, I have to believe that many more families would ask for things like more time together, or for dad to take better care of his health, or for a little more commitment to joy in their daily living together.
Those things are often deeply holy in their own way — and certainly they become so when behaviors that seemed “impossible to bring up, much less change” turn out to be neither. Faith often grows in soil just like that.
To me, there’s a whole lot of Easter in it, too.