The Fourth Sunday of Easter is, perhaps the right time for a note or two on the Easter Season, about which we have only reached the halfway mark! But by now it may be difficult to discern that we are still in Easter – the lilies have faded and died and most Easter baskets might be empty of anything except stray black jellybeans or a by now hard-as-rock marshmallow peep – if they haven’t been relegated to the storage box for another year! How is it possible to keep up the joy we are told to have at this time of the year when there are so many other distractions to take our minds and our hearts to other places than an empty tomb or a room behind locked doors?
Graduations, end of school, spring festivals, prepping the beach or lake house, lawn care and grounds keeping, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day all seem to pivot to the forefront of our concerns at this time of the year. It makes “keeping Easter” all the more difficult it seems – guilt that we only remember it’s Easter when we see the “Easter Banner” still up in the church, or worse, unintentionally indifferent because, “How much can you talk about an empty tomb?!”
And yet, Easter is a difficult season, the most difficult season for us as believers to enter into. A simple reason is that our culture and society place more emphasis on preparing for the feast than on celebrating it. Think of all the time put into Lent; is there anything comparable in celebrating Easter? It can be almost a let-down come Easter Sunday, after all the hours and activity put into making Lent particularly penitential. But the more complex reason is our inability at times to realize that without
Easter there is no faith, there is no community of believers, there is no God in whom to believe. The death of Jesus, contrary to what most people think, does not bring salvation – death is death. It is only in being raised, living again, that Jesus becomes Christ, and is given the “name above all names,” at which “every knee in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, must bend.” Easter takes work to celebrate, more work than Lent surprisingly, because Christian life takes work, hard work, to become a life that gives life, and one that does not blindly follow rules and regulations, or one that dies the slow and suffocating death of empty moralism.
We must, despite all the absurdity, all the impossibility, all the seemingly nonsensical fantasy, which can complicate and debilitate the power of Easter, believe that with God nothing is impossible and that all things are possible. If we fail to believe, we close our hearts to a God who at every moment surprises by moving us beyond the comfortable and the practical. To exist unaware that such is indeed our God is state of living in which we must fear never to be found.
This week we leave behind the empty tomb, because there is nothing there but death, and venture into the second half of Easter to discover a God who neither abandons nor forsakes us, a God who dares us to believe in the great power of selfless love, and a God who threatens us with resurrection – threatens us with the challenge to believe and profess that death, in all its forms and manifestations, does not, and will not ever, have the last word in our destiny as human beings, creations of a God who repeatedly works wonders in our midst.