Resurrection hurts

After the Easter sugar high ends, the real work of resurrection begins.

By Amy Butler

In what must have been a slow news week, I saw a story last week about those iconic Easter candy chicks, Peeps. It seems that about 5 million Peeps are made each day in the months leading up to Easter Sunday.

I suspect that many of those Peeps were consumed by the large number of children in our church nursery on Easter Sunday, and probably a fair number by the crowd in the pews for Sunday morning worship.

From a pastoral perspective, I have mixed feelings about all the celebration every year. Yes, the pews were filled to overflowing on Easter. The chancel was decorated with beautiful flowers, their scent wafting through the sanctuary. The choir’s hours of practice paid off with some very beautiful music.

In true Baptist tradition, the Easter brunch tables were filled with the most wonderful food. People greeted each other in the hallways with the ebullient “Christ is risen!” and everybody looked so happy.

But I always wonder where the people go after Easter Sunday, when the real work of resurrection begins. Because an Easter Sunday as lovely as this one could make you think that resurrection is easy.

Sorry to put a damper on your Peep-induced sugar high, but coming back to life just can’t possibly be that painless. I think resurrection hurts.

One summer when I was in high school it was big news when an ice-skating rink opened in town. In most towns this would be no big deal, but I grew up in Hawaii, where an ice-skating rink was a novelty unlike any other. That summer we would pile on whatever sweaters we could find and go onto the ice to skate for hours, until our fingers and toes were numb with the unaccustomed cold.

I remember distinctly the feeling of walking out into the hot sunshine and rubbing my freezing fingers and toes to try to get them warm again. As the blood rushed to extremities and they came back to life, it always hurt. We welcomed the warmth, but the beating pulse of life in those numb fingers and toes was painful.

Surely Jesus’ resurrection hurt. Jesus appeared to the disciples with all of his wounds still fresh. Presumably, wounds like his don’t hurt anymore after you are dead. Coming back to life, though, must have been a different matter.

What about the disciples? After living through incredible trauma and grief, suddenly everything the first disciples knew about life was turned on its head. Coupled with the incredible joy of resurrection it must have been a struggle to make sense of what they were experiencing, this challenge to the reality they knew.

Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are not peppered with glorious anthems and dish after dish of cheese grits. No, the stories are told with words like “perplexed” and “afraid,” sadness and disbelief woven through every single Gospel account. In the wake of resurrection, relationships shifted, priorities changed, perspectives altered.

And resurrection is painful for us, too. This year on Easter we all gathered to celebrate resurrection again. For we who live in a world full of death and dead ends, this idea of new life emerging from the many different ways in which we experience death is miraculous. But Easter comes and goes and the pews get distinctly less full, almost immediately.

Maybe that’s because nobody talks about the pain of resurrection. Birthing something new, changing directions, starting a new practice, unearthing parts of ourselves we’ve never examined before, making a new commitment -- all of these bring new life, resurrection. But they hurt too.

Like pastors everywhere, I was very glad to welcome occasional worshippers to church on Easter Sunday. But after the sugar high ends, the real work of resurrection begins. I could be biased, but I’d like to think that that’s the perfect time to go to church.

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.