There is a rather long list of qualifications that belong here:
I know that anything I say is incomplete, not enough… falls short, is not all there is etc.
And that probably more than one person in our group will tell me why I am wrong about what I have written here.
But, I also know that the importance of the contextual setting of any answer can’t be dismissed, ignored, overstated, or downplayed. The meanings really do change from year to year, moment to moment.
Now, at this age, it’s become increasingly worthwhile to answer most questions with.. in this year, 2021 under these circumstances, etc. …
Easter means that….It’s not all about me. I am not the center of the universe, nor am I alone, I am not disconnected from others, and what I do or fail to do with, to and for others, including the Planet, matters immensely.
The short version, is that Easter means that whether or not I wear a mask, and get vaccinated has the most to do with the lives of others, not my own. It’s not all about me. I am not the measure of what is most important. What I see in the cross is a too familiar demonstration of how good is not reached by the easy way. In one form or another, there are these moments where the only way for good / life/ light/ hope to arise will come by genuine self-offering, setting the self-to-the-side for the sake of others.
The salient feature of this year is the unique view of what Covid is making it more possible for some people to see — suffering, terror, fear, compassion, selfishness vs. self-offering giving/ sacrifice
while others are, if possible, are even more blinded than they were before as to the presence and impact of our connections to each other.
These many ways of looking at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus can be useful or not, depending on which ones we latch on to. The whole idea of personal salvation, especially a kind of salvation that is presented as though it did not include and demand rather challenging levels of voluntary setting-of-the-self-to-the-side, and costly connection to others and the Creation, needs little commentary as to its potential to offend, and do anything but bring New Life, Light in Darkness, or Hope in the place of despair. It doesn’t work, it doesn’t “save.” It is not reconciling, healing, or life giving.
For me, as well as many others, the isolation of the death and resurrection of Jesus from the Life is a major problem. To me, the death and resurrection apart from the Life is simply wrong. The point of the Life is that it demonstrates (the Law and the Prophets) and is the foundation of the pattern found in many, many places in Hebrew Scripture ( much taught to me by James Eblen) of orientation + disorientation + new orientation (Walter Brueggemann’s words). A model that omits the step between orientation and disorientation doesn’t work.
With this many Easters within my memory… at least 70, my answer is a mishmash of those various events. And the answer has certainly changed a lot over time. Now, unlike when I was much younger, more of the memory has less to do with words or ideas than it does with lived experience…much of which I can’t accurately describe, because it means more than I am able to convey.
Part of it has to do with Pesach, because of the various seders (more than one with Jim Mirel and far more in my own home,) I have been part of over the past 30+ years. For all that many around me do to keep the two far apart, they are not far apart for me. So the memory is a fusion of a fabulous Greek Easter Bread with dyed eggs, apricots, and figs woven like a crown Challah alongside of this Sephardic Charoset that I make from apricots, sour cherries, and pecans. Both.
But the most powerful memory so far has to do with what we call the Great Vigil of Easter, held on the Saturday Night, in full dark, beginning outside with the lighting of the New Fire, and the singing of the Exultet, before processing into a completely dark Church illuminated only by the Paschal Candle and the candles that the people are holding. And, then sitting in the mostly dark, and hearing all of these lessons from Hebrew Scripture:
The Story of Creation Genesis 1:1–2:2 Psalm 33:1-11, or Psalm 36:5-10
The Flood Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:8-18; 9:8-13 Psalm 46
Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac Genesis 22:1-18 Psalm 33:12-22, or Psalm 16
Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea Exodus 14:10–15:1 [Exod. 15:1-6,11-13, 17-18]
God’s Presence in a renewed Israel Isaiah 4:2-6 Psalm 122
Salvation offered freely to all Isaiah 55:1-11 Isaiah 12:2-6 or Psalm 42:1-7
A new heart and a new spirit Ezekiel 36:24-28 Psalm 42:1-7,
The valley of dry bones Ezekiel 37:1-14 Psalm 30, or Psalm 143
The gathering of God’s people Zephaniah 3:12-20 Psalm 98, or Psalm 126
All of that is the set up for this powerful proclamation, that Christ is risen. Which to me is shorthand for… there is Light, Hope, Life, Love, Reconciliation, and Compassion. Good Wins. God is. We are not alone, we are connected. And what we do, think, feel, and set our hearts upon (aka believe) matters. And we “know this” in the breaking of the bread, Eucharist, and in the sending forth into the world to be who and what God has called us to be and do, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.