By Jeff Harris
Even though Marshmallow Peeps and Cadbury Creme Eggs are long gone, it’s still Easter. The church spends 40 days (we call it Lent) preparing for Easter and when it finally arrives, we wear seersucker and hats, consume enough sugar to raise Jesus from the dead (again), hunt eggs so many times that we eventually hide them where they can never be found so the game can finally end (don’t let my kids in on that secret), all to breathe a sigh of relief and say, “It’s over!”
Or at least that’s what we ministers say, since Holy Week is our busiest of the year. We are never so glad to shake hands after worship as we are on Easter Sunday because we can finally exhale. As the preacher Lillian Daniel said, “Christ is risen! I’m going to bed!” A nap after Easter worship is the closest thing to heaven this side of the grave.
But the celebration of the resurrection doesn’t end with a nap on Easter Sunday. The church sets aside 50 days to celebrate the resurrection. After the 40 somber days of Lent, we get 50 days in which to party.
As a lifelong Baptist I was taught that parties were bad, and that if you went to one you might get into trouble. The logic was: avoid parties, follow Jesus and all will be well. What they forgot to tell me is that following Jesus is more dangerous than going to parties.
Instead of the zealot they were hoping for, they got a servant who fought more with the religious authorities than he did with the Romans. But this Jesus didn’t fight with a sword; he used sharp words that wounded and healed. Rather than hating your enemies, Jesus said to love them and to pray for those who persecute you. He taught the hard work of turning the other cheek.
Jesus taught that the meek will inherit the earth, that the merciful will receive mercy and that the peacemakers will be called children of God. He said that in order to find your life, you must lose it, and that the last will be first, while the first will be last.
He warned about the danger of judging others, reminding us that it’s hard to see clearly when there’s a log in your eye. Jesus encouraged us to live simply, not to worry so much about our lives, or what we eat and drink and wear. He told us clearly, you cannot serve God and wealth.
Jesus told subversive stories about good Samaritans, which was an oxymoron in that time (if he were to tell the story today, he would probably make the hero a Muslim or a homosexual); he told another about a prodigal son, which turned out to be a story about a prodigal God — a God so reckless with grace that he welcomes home sinners before they even repent, a God so full of love, that we hear from the cross, “Forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”
The God we find in Jesus is so unlike the gods we create in our own image. After all these years, this Jesus still afflicts we comfortable religious folks enough for us to kill him all over again. That God raised Jesus from the dead is the climax to the strange story of Easter, reminding us that while the ways of Jesus may get you killed, they ultimately lead to life.
I understand that the good news of Easter is difficult to believe, but I don’t know anyone other than God who could have imagined such a wondrously wild redemption. So if it takes you 50 days to ponder such news, then ponder. But amid your pondering don’t forget to throw a party or three, because Easter is a time to celebrate the God whose love is greater than our hate, whose life is greater than our death. And in case your party goes on for so long that you run out of wine, give Jesus a call — I hear he has a knack of showing up for just such an occasion.