Easter is a joyous event when we celebrate new life—resurrection—new Easter dresses—the Easter Rabbit and Easter egg hunts. [I must say the PR people for the Hare/Rabbit thing need to ramp up their efforts. The Easter Hare, not rabbit, first appears in Lutheran Germany around 1682, and provided another opportunity for grown-ups to warn kids they’d better be nice or no treats and toys. Bribery and guilt are long-standing traditions in the raising of children.]
What we don’t like to celebrate as much, is the Good Friday crucifixion. In truth, as a culture we don’t do “death.” We don’t have funerals anymore. We gather together for “celebrations of life.” I was at Valley Cemetery a few weeks ago, for what has become the exception, not the rule. We gathered to bury a body. I overheard an older woman comment to her friend, “I haven’t been here in years—nobody has funerals anymore.” It’s not that people aren’t dying—it’s that we do everything we can to sanitize the ugliness and grief of death. And I get that. It’s a terrible reminder of the fate that awaits all of us sooner or later.
What isn’t nearly as obvious, is the more we push death away, the more we push real hope and resurrection away. All of life is connected with death, and it is from death that life arises anew (resurrection.) I do faithfully declare that death is not the final word; God is the God of new life rising from the grave, and Jesus is the Risen Lord.
The surprise for me is that I’ve learned my hope doesn’t just spring from my head. It emerges from a daily decision to trust God’s promise of new life by surrendering my will and life today, to the care of God’s Spirit. To live “in Christ” is not to live a theoretical life of faith, but to live a life what experiences death and resurrection in the flow of everyday life. Consequently, the peace, joy, and new life that Easter is all about isn’t some foreign experience I know nothing about. It is grounded in my life right here—right now. What awaits me is the BIG death and resurrection at the end of my life. Am I always living centered in that hope? Absolutely not. But I have learned the presence of anxiety, worry, hurry, and conflict in my life—these are all indicators that I’m hanging onto my life and I need to let go.