Sunday, April 12, 2015

Wonderful, Powerful, Tiring

 This is my recent article for The Shawnee News-Star, published Saturday, April 11, 2015

            The big day is over. Easter is behind us. I suspect that many of my clergy colleagues took a much needed day – or two – off. I know that some of my clergy buddies plan vacations for this week, eager to rest and decompress after the frantic pace of the last 40 days and nights. While I normally take Mondays off to find sabbath after the Sabbath, coming down with a stomach bug on Holy Saturday necessitated even more rest and recovery after Easter than I usually require. Easter is wonderful and powerful, but it’s also tiring; for us and for others. Let’s not forget our musicians and choirs, or the administrative assistants who do an abundance of extra work this time of year. Easter, and the days leading up to it, is equally demanding of them as well.

            So it would seem that whether you are a pulpit dweller, a choir lofter, or a pew patron, Easter is a big day for all. It would also seem that now this big day is over, life has gone back to “normal.” Life is, to quote the band The Talking Heads, the same as it ever was. Except it’s not, right? At least it shouldn’t be. Life should be completely different. Presbyterians, along with other denominations, observe Eastertide. This is the season in the church year leading up to Pentecost. But you don’t have to observe a season to recognize that Easter is far more than just one day. Easter is a way of living, a way of being, and a way of seeing the world. I often hear the expression, “we are Easter people.” It sounds great, and I affirm it. The problem is that I’m not sure I actually live it.

            I think the point of Eastertide and living as Easter people is to remind us that the resurrection was not merely an historical event. It not only had meaning and power and significance for the people who walked alongside Jesus, it has meaning and power and significance for us too. Well of course it does. This is not new information. The reason we are who we are is because of the resurrection. It is the wellspring of our faith. To believe in the resurrection is to have hope that this is not all there is, that it actually is not the same as it ever was.

            Again, my struggle is not in the believing but in the living. Because on the surface it seems that nothing has changed. Red hates Blue and vice versa. Children go missing. Jobs get lost. Violence abounds. People are hungry. Grief seems omnipresent. Hope feels fragile in the face of it all. Yet if I really do believe in the resurrection, and if I really do want to live as one who believes in it, then I have to acknowledge the fact that the resurrection is not only about what happens after this life, it is also about what happens in this life. As an Easter person, I am called to continue the ministry of Jesus in the here and now. That does not negate the hereafter, but it reminds me that the resurrection happened for the world. Jesus ushered in the kingdom of God for the world. If the resurrection really makes a difference in my life, then living as an Easter person means I have the ability and the responsibility to make a difference in the lives of others.

            One of my favorite Easter hymns is Christ Is Alive! The text was written by Brian Wren in 1968. I think all of the verses are beautiful, but the second one stands out to me.

            “Christ is alive! No longer bound to distant years in Palestine, but saving, healing, here and now, and touching every place and time.”  (Brian Wren, 1968, ©1975, rev. 1995 Hope Publishing Company; found in Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal, p. 246).

This verse and this hymn would be lovely to me no matter what, but it was not until I turned to it for this article that I discovered Wren’s inspiration for writing it. Easter in 1968 came ten days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hope in the resurrection would have been needed more than ever before. How easy it would have been to lose hope during that terrible time. How easy it would have been to forget the importance of being Easter people in both word and deed. Yet Wren’s text vividly reminds all who sing it that resurrection hope cannot be destroyed by the cross or an assassin’s bullet. Hope is alive because Christ is alive, which means that every day is Easter and we are called to be Easter people every day.

No comments:

Post a Comment