Being an Easter People
Many of us stood in shock as we watched the burning of Norte Dame Cathedral in Paris. Norte Dame Cathedral stands as the spiritual heart of, not only Paris but to all of France. Today we pray for the congregation as they rebuild from the ashes and rise up like a Phoenix to be a spiritual home to all people.
Something amazing happened in the aftermath of this tragic fire. When the firemen and inspectors walked into the church the Alter, with its gold cross stood standing as a beacon of hope in the midst of the ashes. Also, the beautiful east Rose Window also survived. If any images conveyed the hope found in Easter it’s those.
It is often said that Christians are an “Easter People.” We walk in the sure and certain hope that just as Jesus rose from the dead to sit at the right hand of God, we too have Jesus’ promise that all who believe in him will raise up from our brokenness and be made into a new creation. Our response to this promise—this gift—is to live a life of grace and gratitude to God. It is an opportunity to offer praise and thanks for what God has already done for us through Jesus Christ, and what God plans to do for us in the future.
But there is more to meaning of Easter than that. Beyond our thanks and praise, Jesus calls us to a different kind of life—a different way of living. As an “Easter People,” our response to the giftof forgiveness and unconditional love compels us to try to live lives that reflect our new status. We are a people forgiven, healed and renewed by Jesus’ Body and Blood, and we are called to share that Good News with the whole world!
Every response we make, as those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ must be rooted in agape love. As Jesus himself has told us, love for God and love for our neighbor is the foundation of Christian living. Because God first loved us, loved us so much that we were given God’s only son for our salvation, our response to this love is not only to love God as deeply and fully as we are able, but also to love everyone else as deeply and fully as we love ourselves.
Sadly we see our country, world, and even the church torn by politics, gender, sexual orientation, immigration, and I suppose the list can go on. There are voices from all different spectrums society that tells us,” if you do not believe like I do then you are less of a person in my eyes”.
I am reminded of the story of a seminarian who, repulsed by the smell and heat and press of bodies in a crowded subway station, began to complain heartily about “these people!” The seminarian’s companion replied, “My friend, ‘these people’ are those for whom Christ died.” A loving, distant God in heaven is much easier to love than “these people” with whom we live on this closer, crowded planet we call Earth.
But that is precisely what we most certainly, most desperately, need to do. Human beings in general—and Americans particularly—are an unforgiving, vengeful lot. We want to “get even” for what we take to be a slight, an offense, or an attack. By “getting even” we usually mean we want to return the slight, the offense, the attack equally or even more so. Our wounded pride is satisfied by wounding another’s. All we need to do is turn on the news or read what is on social media and we see the divisiveness that is a part of our human discourse today. Where in that is love?
What we fail to recognize, what we fail to honor, is that through Christ we are all already “One as Brothers and Sisters.” Jesus, as Paul writes, died “once and for all.” If we could begin to respect one another as equally loved, equally forgiven, equally saved by God through Christ Jesus we could begin to live the second of Jesus’ Great Commandments with greater success. This is what it truly means to be an “Easter People.”
In this time of violence, strife, argument and disagreement, God continues to call us to love and not to hate. God continues to call us to look beyond the immediate to the eternal. What in a moment of anger or outrage might satisfy our pride is most probably not consistent with the loving future God wants for us. It is not God who has created the turmoil that surrounds us; it is turmoil of our own making born from our love of self above our love of others.
This Easter, amidst the joy and celebration of our new lives in Christ, let us also celebrate the joy of new life with others. Let us begin to set aside our pride and petty difference that not only separate us from each other, but also separate us from God. Let us strive to become an “Easter People” who know and shines God’s love as sunlight passes through the beautiful Rose Window of Norte Dame. For in doing so we fill those dark places of our world with the beautiful spectrum of light which allows us to see one another as equals—equally beloved children of God.