The experience and meaning of Easter is all around us now
At St. John’s Church, our celebration of Easter is multi-sensory. The physical appearance of the church changes from the darkness of Lent to the brightness of Easter. Flowers appear on the altar for the first time in six weeks; the colors of the church change from the purple of Lent to the bright whites and golds of Easter. Our music soars and is full of the alleluias left behind on Ash Wednesday. During our first service of Easter on Saturday evening, we begin in quiet candlelight. Then we chase away the darkness of death by turning on all the lights in the church, ringing bells and singing hymns to awaken our hearts and souls to the experience of new life and resurrection. What a great celebration.
But what now? Now that the bunnies and jelly beans are mostly gone, and families have gathered for Easter and gone home, are our lives mostly back to the same routine as before? Well, more good news – the Easter season is celebrated for 50 days until the arrival of Pentecost. (The word Pentecost means Fiftieth Day.) In other words, we are supposed to continue to live as resurrection people. Easter isn’t an event that happened more than 200 years ago; it’s a day that reminds us to live resurrection lives today. Something new has happened and will keep happening because of the example Christ set for us in his victory over death.
That can be hard to understand, I know. But what it means is that we continue this path of death into life on a daily basis, choosing to see and live out the work of Christ in ways we did not see it before.
For example-how many of us are going to opt out of church tomorrow? We feel like we have done enough church after Easter so maybe we can skip this one. But we are missing the point. Worship is the gift we give to God. We “die” to ourselves in order to be a part of something new. We have to wake up early, shower and get ready – on our day off! Perhaps we have to overcome the feeling of tiredness and reluctance in order to be at our place of worship. Yet God is always faithful. He has blessings stored up for us, but we may have to simply show up to receive them. Music, prayers, sermon, community-how many times have you left your worship service and thought, “Wow! God really spoke to me today!” but you wouldn’t have known if you had not been there.
How about dying to our daily impatience? I experienced a serious case of road rage-not my own-while travelling in the Bronx last week. My response? To apologize and tell the man that it was my fault. I was not from the area and I was lost. His whole demeanor changed and he apologized to me. What he did was wrong and produced feelings of anger and fear, which are a kind of death, but we ended up in reconciliation and new life. I operated on instinct that day. I did not know the right thing to do and I was scared. While I understand that anger can be a great defense mechanism, it rarely builds bridges or leads to new life. I am glad that God somehow guided me into a path of honesty instead of anger. Easter was alive in my soul.
So what now? The experience of Easter is all around us – the grass is greening, the air is warming and we can see new buds of flowers and leaves all around. Keep Easter alive in your heart. Keep worshipping. Keep living as resurrection people.
The Rev. Laurie Garramone is the pastor at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Johnstown.