One of the things I love about the church year is that it provides a healthy and life–giving rhythm for me. We’ve largely lost that kind of rhythm in our secular lives. The rhythm of life is determined mostly now by marketers and retailers.
It’s no surprise, then, that in the world, times of celebration end after a day or so. Take Christmas, for example. We spend weeks preparing for the great day, baking, purchasing presents, decorating houses, planning for parties, wrapping the presents we bought and placing them under the tree. Retailers put out the Christmas stuff just after Hallowe’en, trying to lure us into the stories.
A whole lot of energy is put into getting ready … and then, just like that, it’s over. After a couple days’ worth of sales, the shelves are emptied and we gather up the wrapping paper in black bags and put it out with the trash (or in the recycling bin if we’re responsible–minded people). The decorations come down. The trees are put out for collection. It’s over, and all that remains is a vague sense of dis–ease. There’s just no energy left after all that preparation.
The same thing happens on a smaller scale at Easter. For weeks, the stores are filled with bunnies and chocolate eggs. Then the day comes; some of us get a long weekend. Some of us travel to be with family; others just get away for a few days. But then the world of work beckons, and we are back into the same routine again.
The church tries to avoid that kind of rush back to everyday concerns. Easter for us is not just a day. It’s a season. We spend fifty days celebrating the triumph of God’s love and life. We reflect on the joy of Christ’s resurrection. In deep joy, we consider how the triumph of life changes our lives.
Last week, I suggested that Pascha, (from the Greek form of the Hebrew word pesach, which means “passover”) is a more fitting word for this celebration. Easter is our Passover into the realm of God’s love. Easter changes us. Easter sets us free. Easter leads us home. Easter reminds us that God’s values are different than the values of the world.
Easter is about God’s gift of new life when we thought that death has won. It was not only Jesus Christ who was raised. God’s gift of life is poured into us all. Easter is about our resurrection, our rebirth into life, just as much as it is about Christ’s resurrection. As we receive God’s great gift of love, we are transformed. We now bear God’s life within us. Our lives have been renewed by love, and it is possible for us to live now as people of radical grace.
The poet Wendell Berry calls this “practicing resurrection”. We practice resurrection as we live with compassion and joy, as we seek to honour God’s gospel values in every day of our lives. We practice resurrection as we honour the diversity of God’s good world and as we seek to live faithfully and gracefully.
We practice resurrection as we receive God’s gift of life and as we proclaim and live out God’s vision of life, treating all people with justice and equity. As people of radical grace, Easter calls us out of our apathy and complacency, to work with God for the healing of the nations. We work side by side with people all over the world to reclaim this world for God’s purposes. We work with God to undermine the powers of evil wherever they raise their ugly, dangerous heads.
That’s hard work most of the time. Evil is powerful. It has this world in its grip. It doesn’t know yet that God has won the victory, and thinks that it can still defeat God’s love.
Sadly, we often find ourselves supporting evil. Whenever we hoard God’s blessings instead of sharing them with our world, whenever we harbour resentment instead of seeking forgiveness and reconciliation, whenever we claim that our way is the only way instead of working side by side with others with whom we might disagree for the healing of the nations, whenever we lay blame instead of seek solutions, whenever we find ourselves writing other people off because we think they’re wrong, whenever we give in to the temptation to be exclusive and less than compassionate … then we are part of the problem.
Easter lives in us as we live in the power of God’s healing love. Easter lives in us as we practice compassion and justice. Easter lives in us as we become people of daring hope and radical grace.
May you nurture God’s life in you this Easter season. May you also practice resurrection.
Yme Woensdregt is Pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook