Category Archives: Easter

History is Made and the World Changes Forever

Easter. Bunnies and chocolate, egg hunts and beautiful dresses.
Easter. A time of renewal as spring is fully here.
Easter. Family feasting.

Easter includes all of these cultural expressions, some rooted in ancient spring rituals that antedate Christianity. The word itself originates with fertility deities celebrating new life. Other practices are the creations of brilliant marketeers.

For billions throughout history and around the world, however, Easter is about the most important event in human history: the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. His crucifixion on Good Friday is a mere martyrdom without this divine affirmation of triumph over death. In First Corinthians, chapter 15, the Apostle Paul, himself a former persecutor of the church, declares that without the resurrection of Jesus, the entirety of the Christian faith is in vain and founded on a lie. Without the resurrection, there is no hope in our future or present as we confront evil and suffering – we might as well, “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” (a famous Epicurean saying rooted in the denial of life after death).

Amidst all the chocolate and flowers, billions of Christians will declare, “He is Risen!” and respond with, “He is Risen, indeed!” this confession is at the core of the faith and ultimately, this belief is what splits history into BCE and CE or BC and AD…before Christ and “in the year of our Lord” (or “before the common era and the common era).

The resurrection declares that Jesus’ death is full of meaning: the forgiveness and sins and bearing of sicknesses, sorrows and undeserved suffering. Justice and love meet perfectly as the Incarnate One bears the penalty and shame for all human sin. But death does not win! The resurrection is also the preview of our human future as we see our destiny when the world is fully restored. Such hope, empowered by the Holy Spirit, inspires our acts of love and justice today. 

Please enjoy Easter in all its expressions…and remember that the essence of Easter is hope in Christ and an invitation to new life that is not mere pagan celebration, but spiritual transformation.

From Noon to Three

Today is Good Friday on the Western Christian calendar. Our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters will celebrate the same in a few days.

After the show trials before religious and secular authorities, the beatings by soldiers who will gamble for his garment and the ravings of a rent-a-crowd, Jesus of Nazareth in crucified between two criminals on a small hill outside the walls of Jerusalem.

Even in his death his detractors dare him to perform miracles to save himself while his followers either scatter in fear or watch in incredulity and sorrow as he experiences unspeakable agony.

While suffering, Jesus asks his Father to forgive the perpetrators of this heinous crime and finds time to offer absolution to a repentant thief.

From noon to three, a veil of darkness shrouds the scene as the One called the King of the Jews endures unutterable agony and alienation, the bearing the pain and penalty, alienation from God and humankind, and, in the end, a peace as he declares, “It is finished!”

What just happened?

According to the earliest Christian confessions in both the New Testament and first-centur literature, Jesus died for the sins of the world, bearing the judgment of God for humankind’s rebellion. Jesus is both the sinless representative and atoning substitute of guilty humanity. In his death is satisfaction of divine justice and the expression of unconditional love. His death bears all the deserved and undeserved suffering of humankind, from Adam to the Apocalypse. In his cry of, “Why?” are all the unanswered questions of our circumstances. And in his words of comfort to the humble thief are the seeds of hope as we already glimpse that death itself is defeated in the death of Jesus. And when Jesus declares, “it is finished” and “into you hands I commit my spirit” we see the triumph of hope over despair, mercy over wrath and love over all.

From noon to three the world is reconciled, an amnesty offered a race of rebels as uncompromising holiness and unconditional love embrace on a wooden stake. These hours do not explain evil – the Cross defeats its. These hours do not remove us from challenges – they offer strength to endure, knowing that Easter Sunday is coming.

This is the Good News of Good Friday, the cruciform heart of the Christian faith. All the “red letters” – the words and works of Jesus of Nazareth – are proclaimed and performed with this moment in mind. From Advent to Trinity, from a babe in the creche to a man on a Cross, all of the divine search for lost humankind culminates in this moment of passionate embrace.

May we receive this love once again…and share it across the street and around the world with boldness, humility and wisdom.

The Day(s) After Easter

Easter is the most important day in the Christian calendar. The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and the subsequent missionary efforts of his followers continue to impact the world. A small band of Jewish believers becomes a global, multicultural faith touching billions. Frightened disciples become fearless martyrs and proclaim forgiveness, reconciliation and hope. The agony of Good Friday is now seen as atonement for sin. The despair of death has been overcome by a preview of the future as believers see in the Risen Lord their eternal destiny.

Christianity is more than a personal faith or religious tradition. The Judeo-Christian worldview reflected in the Bible is the foundation for liberty, prosperity and stability. Even people of other faiths or no faith at all are the beneficiaries of the values and vision inspired by the call of Abraham, the legislation of Moses, the leadership of David, the courage of the prophets, the example of Jesus and the insights of the Apostles.

It is vital to assert that people of all worldviews bring much good to the world. Christianity does not have an exclusive claim on universal values such as love, compassion and justice. In fact, a biblical understanding of humankind affirms that all women and men are made in God’s image. Though we are effaced by sin, God’s image is not erased. In the providence of the Almighty, every person can bring good to the world.

The Judeo-Christian ethos has, however, led the planet in fostering particular values that all thoughtful people embrace. Here are just a few of the ideals that are part of the heart of our civilization:
* The dignity of all people, regardless of gender, race or status. This was new in an Empire that devalued the lowly and practiced infanticide.
* Compassion for the broken, poor and vulnerable. Medical care, hospitality, food for the hungry and advocacy for daily bread are the legacies of belief in a loving Creator and Redeemer.
* Free markets, natural prices, private property, community welfare and the entrepreneurial spirit are the overflow of biblical principles.
* Universal human rights rooted in the dignity of all people, the rule of law and transcendent moral principles.

Many more ideals can be enumerated. Consider the social progress of the last millennium, including emancipation movements, suffrage campaigns and private and public welfare provisions. Prison reforms, fair labor laws and equal opportunity under the law are consequences of reverence for God and respect for all people. Leaders across cultures and epochs share the convictions that produced the courage to change the world, from William Wilberforce to Martin Luther King, from St. Francis to Mother Teresa.

Art and music that refresh our lives flow from faith. Bach’s majestic orchestrations and Marc Chagall’s unparalleled images inspire creativity and nobility. Mozart’s masses and the literary genius of C.S. Lewis refract Divine luminosity. Makato Fujimura’s illuminated Gospels and inspired paintings grace 21st century venues around the world. The heartfelt and insightful lyrics of singer Sara Groves inspire millions to believe and continue their journey toward love and truth.

Easter is the day of hope. The days after Easter continue to make our lives rich with meaning. It is interesting that agnostics and atheists thrive in lands deeply affected by biblical values. Liberty of conscience, our most precious natural right, is the direct consequence of Judeo-Christian precepts that call for voluntary belief and mutual love and respect. We have a noble history and great hope if we will renew our fidelity to enduring ideals.