Practicing Resurrection

Celtic cross Iona Abbey

Celtic cross Iona Abbey, Scotland

Its Easter Sunday, for many of us the culmination of our faith, the day for which all of us have waited, hoped and longed for. For many of us this seems like the end of the story, at least that is what you would think by the way we act during the rest of the year. Easter Sunday comes, we give our shouts of Alleluia, sing a few songs of praise, and then we pretty much go about life as usual. Tomorrow we will wake up, drink a cup of coffee or tea, and as I said in a previous Easter post What Have We Done with Jesus, go back to our pre Christ encounter jobs totally unchanged by all that Jesus has said and done.

Easter Sunday is not an end but a beginning. And it isn’t just a single day, it is a whole season that extends until Pentecost. How could we possibly celebrate the wonder of God’s new world which was ushered in by the resurrection, in a single day? And how can we possibly confine the practice of this incredible event to a short church service.

This is the season to practice resurrection, the time to go out and not just shout about the new life we have in Christ but to live it. Jesus resurrection transformed his  disciples. They left homes and families and jobs to live radically different lives. They sold their property and shared it with others. They looked after the sick and cared for the marginalized, and guess what, this small band of disciples became a world wide movement that still transforms lives today. What difference has it made in our lives?

In my study guide Celebrating the Joy of Easter, I ask

What kind of God do we want to incarnate to our world? Is it a God of love and compassion who leaves ninety-nine sheep in order to rescue one that has gone astray, or one who constantly accuses those who do not follow God’s ways? Is it a God who gets his hands dirty by entering, in a very personal and human way, into the pain and suffering of our world, or one who inflicts pain and anguish as punishment for our sins? Is it a God who celebrates life with enthusiasm by turning water into wine at a wedding, or one who strips us of our joy by placing heavy burdens on our shoulders? Is it a God who hears our cries and brings justice for the poor and oppressed, or one who stands aloof and indifferent to our pain?

Easter is the season to show others what kind of world we believe Jesus resurrection ushered into our broken world. It is a season to get out and practice hospitality, compassion, love, healing, generosity and care for creation. It is a season to show by our words and actions that we really do believe Jesus is indeed alive and is transforming our world… through us!


Why Do We Neglect Easter #2

Iona Abbey Easter 2005

Iona Abbey Easter 2005

Easter Sunday is a totally different experience from the agony of Good Friday. For some, the festivities begin with a Saturday night vigil and a midnight feast. For others a sunrise service, a reminder of the women who came to the tomb at dawn, and a breakfast celebration herald this important day. Traditionally, Easter Sunday is also a time for the baptism of new believers who symbolically take on the story of Christ as they die to their sins and are raised to new life. At Tom Balke’s Mennonite Brethren church in British Columbia, Easter Sunday and Good Friday services are an integrated whole. On Good Friday, each member is given a nail to hold throughout the service. At the appropriate moment they come forward and nail it into a life-sized cross. On Easter Sunday chicken wire covers the cross over the nails and people come forward to insert flowers into the cross. Tom told us “It is important that our nails are still there- the cross has not been sanitized.”

The Easter season does not end with Easter Sunday however. It extends until Pentecost and celebrates both the resurrection of Christ and also the many ways the resurrected Christ comes to meet us.

Celtic Cross Iona Abbey Easter 2005

Celtic Cross Iona Abbey Easter 2005

My most vivid memories of Easter date back to my first year on board the M/V Anastasis. The fragrant aroma of lamb impregnated with rosemary and garlic wafted towards me as I walked along the dusty street in Elevesis, Greece. Everywhere I looked men squatted over BBQ pits erected in backyards and along the footpaths, laughing and joking together. They patiently turned the homemade spits, basting the lamb trussed firmly in place over the fire. They were preparing for the most important feast of the year, the celebration of Easter and the resurrection of Christ. The crowded little blue and white houses bulged at the seams as family members gathered from all over the country to join the festivities. Inside the women bustled around preparing mountains of Greek salad with fresh feta cheese, sun-ripened tomatoes, and black kalamata olives. Delicious herb covered potatoes roasted in the ovens and sweet Greek pastries dripping with honey adorned enormous platters.

Ella, ella! (Come, come) people called as we stopped to savor the smells, and beckoned us in to join them with wide welcoming smiles. This was a time of open hospitality, a reminder that Christ welcomes all of us into God’s family. Soon we too were sitting around the magnificent feast enthusiastically participating in the joyous celebration. Shouts of Christo anasti (Christ is risen) brought from us the response Allythos anasti (He is risen indeed) as we all rejoiced together in the memory of our risen Saviour. For the first time in my life, I felt as though I wasn’t just reading the Easter story, I was living it as well.

Whatever your tradition, Easter should be a time to celebrate with open arms and open hearts, as we rejoice in the wonder of the risen Christ and all that his sacrifice means to us and our world. This is a time for hospitality. In some traditions the Easter table is left laden with food from Easter breakfast throughout the holiday season to welcome any guests who come. One of my dreams for the future is to have a huge Easter BBQ when we roast a whole lamb, Greek style, over an open spit in the backyard and invite a crowd of people over for a huge celebration. [1].

[1] Adapted from Sacred Rhythms: Finding a Peaceful Pace in a Hectic World, Christine Sine, (Baker Books 2003