Tuesday, April 20, 2010

That's What Easter Is All About, Charlie Brown!

What? You missed that holiday special? Me too. :) But if there was one that didn't focus on bunny rabbits and chicken eggs, what would it be about? It's all fine to have a nostalgic Christmas story about a baby being born in adverse conditions. But can you make a popular Easter cartoon show for a national audience based upon the supposed resurrection of Jesus? Umm... no. Which is fine, we don't need Charlie Brown to spread the good news.

Easter is obviously all about the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. But what is the resurrection really all about? When the apostles went around Palestine announcing the good news of Jesus' resurrection, what was the good news? That a dead man lived again? Or was there something more to the story?

To get behind more of the impact of the resurrection story, it helps to be familiar with the Exodus story of the Israelites. Jesus was an Israelite, as were all the apostles and almost all the first Christians. As Jews they immersed themselves in the Exodus stories of the Passover and Passthrough. The meals where they remember God sparing them from the angel of death, and again sparing their lives with the parting of the Red Sea - this all shaped their sense of identity and destiny.
God had delivered them once, when would he deliver them again?

This is where Jesus came into the story: he claimed to be the one that God was going to send to Israel to deliver them once and for all from the great empires of the world. One problem: the way of Jesus clashed with the dreams of the rulers and elites. Jesus got crucified before he could fulfill the deliverance they thought he promised. And here is the great irony: in Jesus' crucifixion was a re-enactment of the Passover, and in his resurrection was a re-enactment of the Passthrough. Jesus did bring deliverance... just not the way everyone imagined.

Jesus was recognized as a king, though he was quite unlike any king we would ever imagine. Which is fine, since most kings we have recognized turn out to be violent and corrupt. So Jesus is a new kind of king that gets killed because he won't be violent. And then this Jesus is resurrected - a king you can't kill! Yikes!

And what does this resurrected-king-Jesus do when he gets together with his disciples? Forget revenge and retribution, he goes for announcements of forgiveness, directions for peace, commands for continuing the work of God's deliverance for the world.

So here we are today, having "celebrated" another resurrection Sunday. What can resurrection mean for us today? If it means anything, it means we can have deliverance from the powers that wreck us in this world, it means that God can bring good out of anything, it means that trusting God's way results in unpredictable outcomes that we all look back in hindsight with gratefulness and awe. 

Resurrection today has meaning for us when we recognize our need for a modern-Exodus. What oppresses you or those you love? What are the burdens that hang around your neck or those of your neighbors? What are you enslaved to? When you need deliverance, the resurrection becomes necessary. 

The resurrection promises that if you trust God for forgiveness and direction and power, the old you will die, and a new you will be emerge. This is what happened with the Red Sea Passthrough: the Israelites were afraid of death on one side, but once through, were forever (albeit imperfectly) marked by gratitude and awe. Resurrection prompts us to be thankful and full of awe: what God did once for Jesus, he will do for all who trust Him. 

The resurrection was God's way of continuing his original work, yet beginning something new in the world through Jesus. The resurrection continues to be God's way of delivering the world through those who trust and follow Jesus. Without the resurrection there is no Jesus-story worth telling. But with the resurrection story of Jesus, and the promise of our resurrection someday, we have a powerful incentive to love boldly, to forgive profusely, to make peace courageously, to deliver unceasingly. 

The resurrection reminds us that God can bring good out of all the evil stuff humanity does to one another. God is never the author of evil, but he is always subverting it, undermining it, and rescuing us from it. And more than that, through those that are willing, God is overcoming evil with good. 

For those with a weak belief in the resurrection, we're reluctant to let God use us to deliver the world from evil. We are scared of what might happen to us. But for those with a strong belief in the resurrection, in our moment of decision, we choose to pray and breathe out, "your kingdom come, your will be done...." 

This is what Easter is all about. Well, mostly. But you get the idea. I'm still working out in my own life the implications of Jesus' resurrection. This entry is one more step for me to come to terms with it. Maybe it's been helpful to you too. 

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