Alleluia! Christ is risen!
After possibly the longest season of Lent since the middle ages were ravaged by bubonic plague, we return to Easter services in church! We have emerged from the desolation of pandemic and are living the risen life! Happy, happy, happy Easter!
Last year, Stephen Colbert, who is an observant Roman Catholic, talked about Easter in an episode of The Late Show. Colbert asked his lockdown audience (his wife, Evie) What’s special about Easter? “Well,” she said, surprised, “aside from, you know, Christ is risen, and all that?” “Obviously, obviously,” he replied, “and then we all have eternal life, and all that good stuff…” and he moved swiftly on to his love of chocolate, some humorous Easter cards, and a story about a pet rabbit who seemed to be dead and then came back to life.
It is probably easier to talk about the candy and the bunny than it is to talk about the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. We understand the candy and the bunny. How do we make sense of phenomena we find impossible to explain? Even the apostles had their doubts about what the women told them. Empty tombs, men in dazzling clothes, he is not there. Who could believe such an idle tale?
Lee Strobel, a lifelong unbeliever who set out to debunk Christianity, had a major conversion experience as he researched the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. His book The Case for Christ offers an argument for the certainty of Christian faith based on scholarly and expert opinion. It is an extraordinary book. Its charm is in its clarity and simplicity. He assembles pieces of the story into a neatly organized whole, like a stained glass window, earnestly seeking truth.
The problem is that for those who live a life of faith, certitude is something that we seldom find. Any evidence for God’s existence and miracles can always be questioned. The resurrection of Jesus is as confusing and mysterious to us as it was to those women at the tomb on that long ago morning. Like the women, when we talk about the resurrection, we are in a difficult position. Where is the evidence?
The risen life is not about the intellect or the theology. It is about living into its promise. It is all about Love. Action is more powerful testimony to truth and to Love than whatever we might say. We know that from our relationships.
Faith in a risen Christ is a lived reality. As Christians we are asked to profess the equally implausible beliefs that Jesus rose from the dead and that we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. (Tell me honestly, which is harder to believe this year?) We live by a code of conduct based in love of God and neighbor, dedicate our lives to service from which we will not benefit, and labor daily to orient our actions to serving a God we cannot see. This faith is not passive nor is it sweetly innocuous. It is a stubborn resistance to the power of evil that seeks to crush the innocent.
What do we get out of it? Love: the only attainment that endures beyond the grave.
The deeds that flow from our faith provide the foundation for the truth of Resurrection. We give witness to this with our lives. Saying that Christ teaches us to turn the other cheek and to pray for those who persecute us does not create conflict. It is not usually an incendiary practice to perform works of mercy or generosity. What Christians really need to defend is our own failure to live into our belief. Our neighbors and the world need us to offer proof of Christ with the way we live our lives.
The perplexed women did not let uncertainty deter them. They shared their amazing experience with others, even those who did not believe them. Their testimony did not convince the entire group, and influenced only one person to examine the claim for himself. Ultimately the first followers of the risen Christ, who knew him by encountering him alive after they knew he was dead, persuaded their neighbors that they were the real deal by their consistently loving actions toward others: feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned.
What’s special about Easter? It’s not about the bunny or the chocolate. It is all about the Love that changes life.
May we return home and change the world with our commitment to the Love of God.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Late Show First Drafts: Happy Easter 2021 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2Ie11nd4qY