It’s Palm Sunday and much of the world is gearing up for Holy Week and various remembrances – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Black Saturday, and the celebratory Easter Sunday morning.
For those, and there are many, who have experienced – or are in the midst of a spiritual shift away from the D’s & D’s – the dos and don’ts, the dogma and doctrine – of evangelical or traditional Christianity for that matter, Easter is a conundrum. What do we do with Easter?
After decades of hearing, sincerely believing, and even teaching the Jesus story, we question, we doubt, we just can’t buy into the whole story 100% anymore. It’s like a suit of clothes that no longer fits, or maybe, new wine, bulging, ripping at the seams of old wineskins. Still the question – What about Easter?
I start with Jesus. I believe, at the very least, Jesus was a man of God, called to preach, teach, and live a life exemplifying justice, mercy, and humility. According to Micah 6:8, that is just what the Lord requires of man. Jesus called out the unjust and oppressive practices of the tax collectors, money changers, and civic powers. He lambasted the legalism and ritualistic show and sham of the ancient religious hierarchy. He demonstrated care, compassion, dignity, and respect for lepers, children, the ill and infirm, beggars, prostitutes, and all sorts of marginalized folks. He lived humbly as an itinerant preacher with no property of his own and was dependent upon the generosity of others for sustenance and shelter.
Jesus consistently and passionately bucked the status quo riling both civic and religious leaders. Feeling a threat to their authority and fearful of a populous revolt given Jesus’s growing influence with the people, they arrested him under trumped-up charges, carried out a sham trial, convicted, and crucified him. They killed the man – a good man, a godly man, possibly the anointed son of God. Jesus was crucified because of pride, greed, and fear – the sins of the people of that day and particularly those in authority.
Has our manner of sin really changed much over the centuries? They had power, position, wealth, exclusivity, and they wanted to keep it that way. Fearful of losing it all, they killed Jesus, period. Not going to wade into the theological weeds of sacrificial atonement here. That’s good Friday, on to Easter morning!
What happened that long-ago Sunday morning may be the prime example of God’s working in mysterious ways. Not to be flippant, but truly only God knows. I know I don’t know! I believe that’s a good thing, maybe one of a multitude of things that keep me mindful and in awe of the mystery of the Divine and tethered to him/her/it through faith. After all, if one is so certain one knows, there is no need for faith.
Whether one chooses to believe in Jesus’s physical resurrection or not is up to each individual. No need to get caught on the theological sticky wicket of resurrection. These days my takeaway from Easter morning is a renewed spirit. Regardless of what happened to Jesus’s body or whether his disciples encountered him in the flesh, as a ghost, in visions, or in hallucinations after his death, we know what they did. They went from being grieved, dejected, and fearful to being excited, energized, bold, and committed to continuing to spread the message and do the work of justice, mercy, and humility that Jesus had begun. I can buy into the disciples having an emotional and/or spiritual experience resulting in a renewed spirit and greater focus and commitment to a cause – been there and done that, maybe you have as well.
No doubt, ultimately, the disciples walked away from Easter morning with some form of spiritual renewal.
What about Easter? For my part, I will remember the life and work of Jesus, grieve his death and the shameful manner in which it occurred at the hands of sinful men, and celebrate the hope of a renewed spirit. A renewed spirit that will lead and sustain in being and doing all that God, by whatever name, requires – to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. That takes care of the Easter conundrum for me.
By the way, as I pondered these things, it occurred to me that much of the religious world, regardless of tradition, mark various celebrations during the spring – a natural time of renewal. Our Muslim neighbors are celebrating Ramadan commemorating Muhammad’s first revelation with fasting, introspection, and prayer. Given the Islamic calendar, Ramadan does not always fall in the spring, but it does in 2022. Jewish friends are observing Passover remembering their bondage and celebrating their freedom. Hindu communities are celebrating Holi, the festival of colors honoring the triumph of good over evil. Buddhists are celebrating Songkran symbolically washing away the past year and making a fresh start. It seems to me all these celebrations in some manner involve remembrance and renewal – the impetus for a fresh start with a renewed spirit. I am awed, and my heart is warmed and encouraged by the core commonalities in our global faith traditions. My Easter prayer – is that we, the world over, could truly experience a renewed spirit and live in community with one another while seeking justice, loving mercy, and practicing humility.