I guess when you get mumps for Easter two things happen:
1) You know you are over-due for a serious performance review meeting with the Easter Bunny.
2) It gives you some time to reflect on the significance of Easter and how we as a church express this in the things we do.
The celebration of Easter it is worth saying is nowhere commanded in the Bible. (This is obviously to be kept rather hush-hush due to our love of public holidays, Easter eggs and hot cross buns (even the Halaal ones).)
Easter is bigger than Easter?
We celebrate Easter not so much as a “holy weekend” that commemorates the events that happened on that day two thousand-ish years ago. But rather as a theological event that ushered in the new age of God’s Kingdom now broken in, through the death and resurrection of His King. It is not the facts about that day that we celebrate per se (and they are significant and important) but the significance of those facts for our lives and our world.
That got me wondering if we as the church fall into the trap of celebrating Easter only as a historical event or a theological concept rather than as an historical-theological event that has actual implications for life today not just as information from the past or as hope for the after-death future (it is both of these certainly!).
How much of our celebration is either about giving people information about the events commemorated at Easter or (better) explaining to them something of the significance of those events. This is not a bad thing. We have to tell the story and we have to teach people the significance of the story. But is that the end of it?
Easter is not yearly event because the Christian life is a daily celebration of the Easter event – it’s truth, significance and implications. Easter is not so much an event to be commemorated but a life to be initiated into and to walk in. We are people who are given new life by the cross and resurrection of Jesus. The cross and resurrection of Jesus is our pardon, our acceptance, our confidence and our model for the Christian life.
What is Easter all about?
So is this one of those weird blog posts telling us all to scrap Easter, burn the Easter bunny and swear off hot-cross buns for life.
Well no, while it is a call to redeem “Easter” for the rest of the year, I have no problem in setting aside an appropriate few days to remember the events of that first Easter.
This reflection, though, is more around the substance of what we actually do when we celebrate Easter. Our celebration of Easter is a unique event to give a snapshot not so much into the historicity of Easter (although no doubt some newspaper article claiming to have disproved Christianity AGAIN will be published as a kind act of religious tolerance at this special time of year) but a snapshot into the significance of Easter = historical event + interpretation + implications.
Easter is about the death of death and the in-breaking new life of God’s Kingdom. It is about the death of the sinless Saviour for an undeserving, sinful people. It is about the perfect One being broken by the brokenness of his world. It is about the breaking the bondage of sin and slavery and a creation being set free for new life, healing and wholeness. It is about the chains of sin being broken… about man and God reconciled… about sin paid for… restored humanity… redemption from sin… new life… hope and forgiveness… It is about God’s new life breaking out from the tomb into Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth…
Typical Easter weekend
Typically our Easter weekend celebration goes something like this… a couple of church services, hot cross buns, visitors to our church, some kind of special Easter programme, a sunrise service, Easter eggs, family time, perhaps a special Easter convention with a special time of teaching, watch some sport, spend some extra time with the family (nuclear or extended or both or no difference if you black). All of these are good things but are they the best reflection not just on the facts of Easter or the theological significance of them but equally of that new life now broken in?
Having said this, for many of us our Easter celebrations are probably are an accurate reflection of our Christian lives. The high-point of most of our Christian walk is our “removed from normal life” church services. Our Christian experience is anemically individualistic. Easter is reduced to a reflection on Jesus who died for my sins and rose again to bring me eternal life – true but far too narrow. Often our churches are not a taste of the new life of the Resurrection breaking out into history now and living in glorious hope of the future coming of King Jesus. We celebrate Easter as most of life with people like us. And we have baptised the western middle-class idol of family and spend most of our non-church time with our family (often alone).
How could Easter look different?
Good Friday is essentially about the brokenness of a world ravaged by sin. It is about people messed up by their own sin, the sins of others or the devastating effects of living in a fallen world. And most often it is a noxious cocktail of all three.
Most importantly Good Friday is about the God of love, of justice, of mercy and compassion. It is about the God of mission, if God is not a God of mission there is no Good Friday. Good Friday is about the God of justice and mercy – broken and angry with state of his world. It is about the Father groaning at the injustice and in humanity of his sons and daughters created in his image.
It is about a broken King broken for us. The Sinless One taking on the sin of the world. The Almighty being crushed for our iniquities.
Perhaps we need to be crushed by the weight of our sin and brokenness each Easter. Not simply our own missteps and mistakes. But intentionally immerse ourselves in the brokenness around us:
I might want the day to look a little more like this…
Gather early in the morning for some prayer, read some Scripture together, pray, perhaps sing a few songs (about an hour). Spend the day in fasting for your own sin and the brokenness of your community.
Then go out in small groups prayer walking in your neighbourhood. Look for brokenness – it won’t be hard to find- be moved by it. Silently pray as you walk. Stop and pray for people as you are able to – homeless people, beggars- anyone who will let you. Spend some time listening to their story if they will let you.
Choose some well-known places of sin and brokenness in your area – brothels, drug dens, homeless shelters, certain night clubs, businesses known to be exploitative etc and go pray for them. Pray for God to save people, for Him to shut them down or for him to show you how you could be a blessing into this brokenness and to those caught in this brokenness and sin.
Meet together someplace and share some coffee and prayer. Talk about what you have seen and heard. Share stories. Weep together. Ask for prayer if you need it. Read some Scripture.
Then perhaps those who are able can go together and simply spend the rest of the time together serving the broken, lonely, forgotten – perhaps at an AIDS hospice, old age home, children’s home, homeless shelter?
What about telling people the gospel? Yes- always and everywhere. We can tell it to each other as we walk, when we gather, when we read Scriptures. And as we talk to people, serve them, pray with them – talk to them wherever you can about Jesus.
What about Easter Sunday?
Easter Sunday is a celebration of the death of death. The victory of Jesus over death. The chains are broken, the captives are set free, Satan is defeated and new life has broken in (or out). We celebrate the victory of King Jesus over death, sin and slavery to sin. God’s new world has begun, now in part and, when Jesus returns, later in full. But now everywhere there are splinters of light, shards of hope and scraps of joy. The church as scattered communities of light are a foretaste of this new world now broken in.
I like the symbolism of gathering at sunrise – a new day has dawned. The new age has broken in. Gather with fellow believers at sunrise – read some Scripture, sing a few songs and break our fast together. Outside – on the beach- seems strangely appropriate?
Then we ought to scatter throughout our community perhaps visiting some of the broken places we visited on Friday (or other places). Sunday (if it is anything) is a day that symbolised the defeat of death, the freeing of the slaves, the breaking out of resurrection life, new life, freedom and joy… What if we resolved for the people of our community to taste something of that new life?
Bring hope and joy and light where there is very little of it?
Have a feast with the homeless
Go be joy, laughter and blessing to those in hospitals, hospices, boys homes, prisons etc
Go clean your local park, streets, etc
Go visit friends, neighbours, colleagues anyone you know is in need
Hand out gifts randomly on the streets where you live
Commit random acts of kindness for strangers
And then end the day with a feast/party/banquet perhaps in the local park or street that you helped clean up – again read Scripture, share stories, sing some songs, eat, drink, laugh and celebrate the King who brings new life to those who were dead in their sins.
Invite everyone you meet today and everyone you know to join you. Make it a party! You might even need to be prepared to end the day with few baptisms?
And what if it is true what I said right at the beginning that everyday is Easter?