While visions of PAAS colored eggs are not exactly dancing in my head, several random Easter echoes are bouncing around in that vast empty space between my ears. Rhyme or reason will not make an appearance today, just random reactions, observations, musings and, yes, even a small rant.
The resurrection is incredible (as in hard to believe). Sometimes we say the word resurrection so often and so fast that the fact that dead men rising is not an everyday occurrence is sometimes lost in the shuffle. If we have never felt the tension, that nagging tug, resulting from the improbability of it all, then I’m not sure we have thought deeply and reflected intensely enough on what we are claiming to believe. Apparently, even the people who were closest to Jesus in time and space, who knew him the best, and who had even laid eyes on the empty tomb had trouble digesting that bit of news (and believing it).
When I look around these days, I don’t see any resurrecting going on. I do see a lot of dying (both with and without a pulse). So the fact that resurrection faith is alive and well today, that it persists despite the philosophical materialism and naturalism which seep like a deadly, odorless and tastless gas into every crack and crevice of modern society, seems to me nothing short of astonishing. Moreover, the fact that I believe it (and persist in doing so) given my own rationalistic mental wiring seems like nothing short of a miracle. If it is just a fictional story, a mere rumor manufactured by wishful-thinking, love-sick, mourning believers, then it is one that indeed has very long legs.
I have come to the conclusion that there are a lot of very smart people who can give compelling reasons for not believing the resurrection (and be comfortable in their faith of unbelief). Conversely, there are a lot of very smart people who can give some very compelling reasons for believing in the resurrection and, like their skeptical counterparts, wear their faith like a comfortable old suit of clothes. When you boil everything else away, it comes down to what you choose to do. What incredible freedom, to accept or reject this incredible story!
I am firmly convinced (and if I ever waver, all I have to do is scan the morning headlines) that without resurrection, there is no hope. Through the eyes of faith, I believe that Jesus rose from the dead (a real body, not a ghost) in historical time and space. I can’t prove it like I can the results of a chemistry titration experiment, but I believe it–however improbable. I accept God’s gift of resurrection faith. I choose hope.
On the homefront, I’ve learned that teenage boys still like (and expect) Easter baskets. Number Three Son (who will turn 13 in July) was especially jittery on Saturday night, thinking that perhaps the Easter Bunny had dropped him in favor of some cute, toothless urchin with tossled hair and footy pajamas. Not to worry, the Easter Bunny made her appearance (did you know that she is about 5’4″ tall and wicked cute, looks great in a pair of jeans and has beautiful, silver-streaked hair?).
Just for your information, these days a typical teenager’s Easter basket contains historical fiction novels, a dry-erase calendar board, t-shirts, jelly beans, a variety pack of Orbit sugarless gum and a little “walking around” cash. Number Three and his brothers were so happy and pleased that they tolerated, with relatively little snide commentary, the obligatory Easter family portrait session.
Gnosticism (i.e., one of the various forms of Extreme Christianity) is alive and well today, and if you’re a TV producer, it can be packaged to sell. Did you read this? These reality shows are really starting to go a little too far. Excuse me, but wasn’t the whole point (or at least a main point) of Jesus going to the cross that we wouldn’t have to go through the same thing? Crucify Me? How about Cancel Me?
Eyegal and I had an “Easter Date” Saturday night. First, we dined at the Bonefish Grille, where the Mahi-mahi with Mango Salsa and the Atlantic Salmon slathered in Lime Tomato Garlic sauce were to die for, and the Corona with lime was just the libation to wash away the throatful of dust and pollen that I breathed in while mowing my lawn on an unseasonably warm April afternoon.
Next, we wandered over to Holy Spirit Catholic Church where our friends Dottie and Larry (former Evangelical Protestants) were among 25 candidates and catechumens who were being either confirmed or baptized during Easter Vigil Services. There’s nothing like a traditional (as in centuries old) service in a litugical church to get you into the Easter spirit. I loved the darkened sanctuary and silence at the start of the service (not a single PowerPoint slide in sight and no idle chatter about Alabama and Auburn football was heard). We were moved deeply by the melodious tenor of the cantor as he sang during the the Blessing of the Fire and the Preparation of the Paschal Candle. Soon the darkness of the sanctuary (meant to symbolize the darkness of the tomb) gave away to a soft, ethereal glow as fire from the Paschal Candle was passed from one baptized believer to another.
At over two hours, it is the longest Mass of the year, and the celebrant mentioned this several times, once joking to the congregation that they should simply consider this their last “last penance of the Lenten season.” The baptismal and confirmation ceremonies were quiet and dignified, and there was nothing pretentious or ostentatious on display–the service was designed to accomplish the ancient rite of Christian initiation and was not intended to be finely-tuned, choreographed entertainment.
Although it seemed to drag at times, as the moment of the Eucharist approached, the pace picked up considerably and there was a palpable excitement in the air as the parishoners moved into the aisles and made the short pilgrimage toward the altar to receive what they hold in faith to be the Body and Blood of Christ, the Bread of Life washed down with Spiritual Drink.
As we dismissed, I felt privileged to have been a part of something so ancient, so tried and true. I remember thinking that while there are some significant differences, for the most part the various tribes of God’s people have more in common than they they might think. When you get right down to it, we had felt pretty much at home.
Attending the Easter Vigil Service renewed my appreciation for sacred time. In a world that is fragmented and harried to the point of the absurd, it is comforting to have the natural rhythm of the church year helping to guide us through all the noise and confusion. Thank God (literally) for gifting the Jews with this tradition of sacred time and thank God that they passed it on to us.
Many Evangelicals (especially some in my tribe) simply dismiss the notion of sacred time, pointing out that one day is no more special than another, and that we have the “freedom” to not join in with the rest of the “religious world” (will we ever recognize each other as fellow Christians?) in celebrations such as Easter. Try making the case that “no one day is more special than another” to your spouse on your wedding anniversary. Well, I suppose we do have such freedom, but at what cost do we exercise it?
There are signs of positive change, though. At my own church yesterday morning, the words “Easter” and “resurrection” were flying fast and often, and while we didn’t have a cross out front draped in white raiment, inside the spirit of Jesus’ rising and conquering power seemed to be alive and well. It was good to see and experience. It was progress.
But then again, some still don’t get it. At the same time that the majority of Christians worldwide are keeping a reverent vigil in remembrance of Jesus death, burial and resurrection, the good Christians at my alma mater, Harding University, are cutting loose and cutting a rug on the stage of the Benson Auditorium in Searcy, Arkansas.
Each year on Easter weekend, the fraternities and sororities at Harding get together and perform in the annual musical revue “Spring Sing.” There’s certainly nothing wrong with college students blowing off some pent-up steam with a little singing and dancing, especially on a campus whose administrators at all other times outlaw any motion of the hips beyond that naturally produced by the simple act of walking.
Now I love a good musical revue as much as the next guy. But does it have to be scheduled during Holy Week? Does this give you no pause, like that feeling you have as you walk through a cemetery and meticulously avoid stepping on a grave?
But, you protest, we don’t recognize “Holy Week,” therefore we have the freedom to do what we want. Maybe so, but how about exercising a little responsibility and consideration with your freedom and take into account the beliefs of others who do. To do otherwise is to play the inconsiderate rube. Besides, it appears tawdry and, well, a tad unChristian (dare I say “pagan?” Well, I guess I just did!). Come on dear ol’ alma mater, I know you can do better.
‘Twas the day after Easter, and I have prattled on entirely too long. Let’s cut to the chase: He is Risen! (He is Risen Indeed!)