Easter: Over for Another Year? - May 03, 2006

Last year I wasn't able to attend Palm Sunday or Maundy Thursday services in the week preceding Easter like I usually do. On Easter Sunday, I felt like I was experiencing Easter in a vacuum: without the pain, the passion, or the cross. How anticlimactic it felt. There was no story, no plot, no drama; just a nice pretty Easter service with lots of flowers and happiness.

Then I realized that is the way so many in our culture experience Easter, if at all. It is just another holiday for the card and candy companies to capitalize on; a mini-Christmas.

The real Easter is nothing if it is not the climatic capstone of the Christian faith. Without the resurrection of Jesus, the Christian religion would be just another religion. Obviously, I feel it is more than that. And the power of Christ's resurrection at Easter is something that the Christian can live every day, not just on Easter.

How in the name of pluralism and respecting other religions can I be so bold? A new book, Is It Insensitive to Share Your Faith? by James Krabill (Good Books, 2005) helps me be willing to go out on a limb. In it, James (a life-long friend and colleague) talks about the familiar line, "Jesus was either a liar, lunatic, or Lord." Jesus himself said that he was going to live again after death. For those who say that Jesus was just a good man or wise teacher and nothing more and not divine- how can they believe he was "good and wise" while telling such enormous lies or misleading people? For those who feel he was delusional or misguided, how could he have been considered such a good man and wise teacher?

If our lives have any meaning beyond the 80 or so years we live on this earth, if there is an ultimate purpose, then it is reasonable to believe that Jesus was and is who he said he was. It is common to go through a period of questioning all this, but somewhere along the line we get to the place when it seems logical that life is about something more than being born, living and dying.

Another new book, The Resurrection Life: The Power of Jesus for Today by Myron Ausburger (Evangel Publishing House, 2005), says that the resurrection sets Christianity apart from all other religions. Christians believe not in words on a page, but in the life, death and resurrection of a living person and we live in a close spiritual/mental relationship with that person. That is the intriguing difference about Christian faith.

Finally, one man who converted from Islam to Christianity notes that for him, the clincher was being able to be assured by Christian faith that he was forgiven and made clean and not continually "working" to become better in order to ensure his place in heaven (Abraham Sarker, Understand My Muslim People, Barclay Press, 2004.)

I certainly don't have all the answers or have everything figured out, but that's okay. If Easter has any meaning at all beyond a holiday on a calendar, then we get to the place where we rest in the knowledge that the God who figured everything else out can figure out the faith "problems" we ponder- like what is the place of other religions? Some people claim that "all religions are the same and it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you live a good life." Krabill, in his book, points out that religions don't claim to be the same and they don't all get you the same place. For instance, just look at some of the religious groups of the recent past, like Jim Jones' suicidal Jonestown, Guyana disaster, or the David Koresh Waco compound in Texas, or the Heaven's Gate movement where they all died by suicide in look-alike tennis shoes.

This Easter, I took it all in; the bittersweet happiness of Palm Sunday when you know Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem road leads to the intimate drama of the Last Supper celebrated on Maundy Thursday; the starkness and pain of Jesus' death on Good Friday, and the wild joyful exuberance of Easter morning. Songwriters Richard Avery and Donald Marsh wrote about experiencing Easter every day in our lives: "Every morning is Easter morning from now on! Every day's resurrection day; the past is over and gone. Daily news is so bad it seems the Good News seldom gets heard. Get it straight from the Easter people: God's in charge! Spread the Word!"

Contributed by Melodie Davis: MelodieD@MennoMedia.org Melodie is the author of eight books and writes a syndicated newspaper column, Another Way