Saturday, April 07, 2007

Learning to Rejoice at Easter

When I was a young child, Easter was an hour drive to my grandparent’s house for a basket filled with jellybeans and a hollow-eared chocolate rabbit. When I was a teenager, it was just another Sunday, only more boring, because all the stores were closed and you couldn’t go anywhere.

Then I became a Christian, and Easter was supposed to be the highlight of my year, of my life, the celebrated triumph of Jesus over death that allowed me to have new life. I liked the lilies and the white drapes on the altar, the hymns that were only sung then. Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Alleluia. I liked the spring colors and extra dressed up parishioners standing on the lawn after service while their children hunted for eggs in the bushes flanking the church.

But I wasn’t happy like everyone else seemed to be. I was still bruised and bleeding from the death and the graphic explanations of the cross with thorny crowns and pierced sides and all manner of torture. And I was angry with God for ordaining that death, as if in the beginning, the world had been created for the sole purpose of stringing Jesus up on a cross. For me, for my sins.

Well, I didn’t want that responsibility. I wasn’t born way back then, wasn’t a twinkle in anybody’s eye. And I thought everything had spun out of control, like a runaway train, but people said, “No. That was the plan.”

How could I love a God who planned for murder and abuse, who built it into the script? I prickled at the naming of Jesus’ death––Good Friday; nothing that day was good. Even the end result, a world redeemed, shouldn’t let us call the day Good.

Once I had children, I couldn’t read them books of the Easter story, full-color illustration after illustration of Jesus suffering on the cross. I couldn’t read that story to my three year old and in good conscience tell her that Jesus died for her. What could she have possibly done to deserve that guilt? And how could she respond, except to scream and cry No!

It’s not that I wanted to pretend it didn’t happen, or deny that it was a defining moment in the history of the Christian faith. It’s just that the God who claimed me did it with love, pure and abundant. The God who loved me into faith doesn’t require violence, greed and injustice in order to demonstrate this great love. The God I know allows our sins, forgives them, and weeps mightily over them.

The God I know sent Jesus to be a light unto the world while he was in it physically, healing, teaching, preaching, learning, growing, and ministering to the brokenness he encountered all around him.

The God I know allowed Jesus’ brutal and untimely death and intervened in the aftermath to create new life, to transform and resurrect Jesus’ and to change the lives of those who chose to follow him.

The God I know is slowly teaching me to rejoice at Easter. Rejoice because Jesus did not live his life in vain. Rejoice because in the end, the most evil acts can somehow be redeemed and reformed. God’s intervention insured that Jesus would live on in a new dimension. God promises to do no less for you and me.

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