It is a little paradoxical to write about Easter in the middle of Lent, but every year we pastors prepare our Easter sermons during the heart of the sacrifice and fasting that Lent brings, so the practice makes sense.
In many of our countries, Easter is the day people return to the normalcy of work and school after relaxing during the vacation days Holy Week. How ironic! After all, Easter is the day “normal” gets obliterated, and a new paradigm emerges. For Christians there should be no bigger celebration.
As Joan Chittister writes in her book, The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life, “Nothing else in the Christian culture so completely explains all other things Christian as well as Easter does” (p. 54). The Son of God was handed over to be crucified and, after dying on the cross, remained in the tomb three days. But Easter proclaims that death does not have the last word! Thus, there should be no greater party than Easter! An extravagant festival of praise should break forth on that Sunday just as Jesus burst from the tomb in the early morning so long ago.
Chittister says it this way: “On Christmas morning we find the manger full of life; on Easter morning we find the tomb empty of death. We know the whole truth now: death is not the end, and life as we know it is only the beginning of Life. There is no suffering from which we cannot rise if we live a life centered in Jesus. It is the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning that says to us, ‘You go and tell the others. Now!’ (Matthew 28:10, paraphrase)” (p. 164). We simply cannot contain this good news! We want to invite as many people as possible to rejoice with us!
That kind of impulse should cause our Easter service to overflow with joy and excitement. Chittister shares a humorous anecdote related to this very reality:
“He was six years old and not given to church-going. When I saw the family at the monastery Easter Vigil, I groaned. It’s a long service full of dancing and singing, flowers and incense, bells and organ. Why would anyone ever bring a child to it? I thought. But afterwards, at the agape, the boy was still clearly animated, and the family was aglow. ‘Jake insisted that we bring him back…for the Vigil again this year,’ his mother explained to me, tousling his hair proudly. ‘Really? Whatever for?’ I said in obvious disbelief. Then the little boy looked up at me with a kind of mild amazement. ‘Because I like this church,’ he said. ‘In this church, Jesus really rises!’” (p. 201).
There aren’t much higher compliments. This Easter may your service – and your life – be evidence to all that Jesus really rises!