Nearly a week has passed since Christ rose from the grave, since we celebrated Easter with trumpets and sunrise, communion and hallelujahs, feast and fanfare, and I still feel resoundingly full.
It’s not just the ham that’s still in the refrigerator or the earnest celebration of new life that felt so different from the traditions of revering the ancestors and sweeping the ancestors this time of year in China. In fact, it’s the same story, from my youth, of Jesus riding in triumphantly on the donkey, of black Friday, of brutal death on a cross, and an empty tomb.
Nothing has changed in the Biblical story, so how do I account for what feels so different, so breathless, so heavy, so alive about Easter this year?
Last Sunday as the pastor stood in the pulpit, she reminded us that for Christians, we have no tomb, no cross, no holy place, hill, mount, or edifice to go to pay homage to Jesus, but that we ourselves are the embodiment of the resurrection, the Living Stones (1 Peter 2), the Easter people. There are no holy places and so in resurrection, we are made holy people.
But our pastor also stepped off a white-cloaked altar into the sea of faces dressed in their best that morning and invited us to share our joys and concerns like we do on ordinary Sundays. We were reminded that in earnest celebration there is still loss, and fear, and pain.
I think it’s this fact that accounts for the fullness of this season for me, the fact that the communion we take symbolizes not only life, resurrection, and the miraculous, but human brokenness, betrayal, and violence. Likewise, the Easter story we celebrate leaves the women and the disciples not only full of hope and promise, foreshadowing the incredible growth of the church in history, but also anguished by the death of their savior, and bewildered and fearful at the sight of an empty tomb, a dwindling faithful, and an impossible truth.
This Easter I’m reminded that God doesn’t change, but the resurrection changes us, often and endlessly.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.”
We don’t become Easter people in a flash, jubilant and freed from this world, but we become Easter people when holiness leaves the altar, the cross, the tomb, and steps firmly into our midst and settles into our bodies and life rhythms. Our circumstances don’t necessarily change, we still look like the flawed people that we are, but we become Easter people when our hearts, our eyes look upon this world and find everything holy. We become Easter people when we behold what is holy in one another as though we are making a pilgrimage to somewhere sacred, because the Kingdom of God is here, in you and in me. We become Easter people when we stop parsing what’s God and what isn’t and relish that the Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it. We become Easter people when death is always with us, and yet, we experience life anew.
We become Easter people each time spring and hope return to a desperate world, and we’re left full, changed, and holy.