I realize, at least on the church calendar and the ministers’ tasks, today is not Easter. Nor is tomorrow. Easter, on the calendar, is the last Sunday in March this year. What has happened in my world is that I was struck by an Easter reality…for I hold dear to my heart and the presence in my soul, that Easter is not a day on the calendar…rather, Easter is an experience in living…to which result we are empowered.
Okay. I am not working with churches or clergy right now. That’s okay; it really is. But I came across a reflection from one of my dearest clergy colleagues, Joanne Carlson Brown, pastor at Tibbett’s United Methodist Church in West Seattle, Washington. She has given permission to include it in this blog.
I share for everyone, that hopefully you are prompted to respond in your own life and living how Easter is with you…as far more than a good idea…and a wished-for-hope. And. It may be for my clergy friends who receive the blog, Joanne’s understanding of Easter might help in your own sermon crafting. If yes, great. If not, I understand.
For Easter is not about calendaring; Easter is about coping with life’s daunting and exhilarating moments and knowing…well, Joanne offers it better:
“Easter is early this year, almost as early as it can be. It seemed like we just got done with Christmas and it was Ash Wednesday and Lent and now we are leading up to Easter.
It presents a challenge on what new can we say about the resurrection. It comes about every year and amidst the cute bunnies and the chocolate eggs there needs to be the real message of Easter not just about spring and newness but of resurrection and what that means to us all.
God has raised Jesus from the dead and we are the evidence of the resurrection. You know, on Easter day all of us get dressed up in our finest, the church is full (always looking to ring that bell for 200 or more) and talk about Jesus being raised from the dead and how he’s going to take us all to heaven one of these days … Well, that might be nice, but it isn’t what the resurrection of Jesus is all about. God didn’t raise Jesus from the dead to prove that he could raise a few cantankerous saints.
God raised Jesus from the dead for a different purpose. When Jesus came in his first body, people didn’t like God around. It was a bad place for God to be. Sort of like having a minister at a party. And we felt uncomfortable with him here. And so we had to get rid of him and nailed him to a cross and said: Go back home God. Don’t mess around down here. Go back to where you belong and be a good God and we’ll see you at 10:00 on Sunday morning (maybe).
By raising Jesus from the dead, God is refusing to take humanity’s “NO” for an answer. God is saying: You can kill my boy if you wish, but I’m going to raise him from the dead, and put his smack dab down on earth again! I’m going to raise him up, plant his feet on the earth, and put him to preaching and teaching, and healing again.
God raised Jesus, not as an invitation to us to come to heaven when we die, but as a declaration that God has now established permanent, eternal residence on earth. The resurrection places Jesus on this side of the grave – here and now – in the midst of this life. He is not standing on the shore of eternity beckoning us to join him there. He is standing beside us, strengthening us in this life. The good news of the resurrection of Jesus is not that we shall all die and go home to him, but that he has risen and comes home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, prisoner brothers and sisters with him. That may make us uncomfortable and we might wish that he and his friends go somewhere else but they are here among us and we are to respond to his leading.
The resurrection is simply God’s way of saying to humanity: You might reject me if you will, but I’m going to have the last word. I’m going to put my son right down here in the midst of you and he’s going to dwell among you from here on out.
On the morning of the resurrection, God put life in the present tense, not in the future. God gave us not a promise but a presence. Not a hope for the future but a power for the present. Not so much the assurance that we shall live someday but that he is risen today. Jesus’ resurrection is not to convince the incredulous nor to reassure the fearful, but to enkindle the believers. The proof that God raised Jesus from the dead is not the empty tomb, but the full hearts of his transformed disciples. The crowning evidence that he lives is not a vacant grave, but a spirit-filled fellowship. Not a rolled away stone, but a carried-away church.
Can we be that carried-away church? Can we live as we are called with Jesus in our midst and not in some far off heaven waiting for us to come to him? Can we realize that he is here – right now – calling us to live the Way, to be faithful followers of Jesus and to engage all his naked, thirsty, sick, prisoner brothers and sisters; his homeless families, his refugees fleeing wars not of their own making. his immigrants searching for a better and safer life fleeing from oppression, danger, and fear?
We are called to not just celebrate Easter with great hymns and trumpets, pancake breakfasts and egg hunts for kids but to live into the true meaning of resurrection – our tag line – Living the Way of Jesus in West Seattle and beyond. May it be true for you and me, this day and always.”