Growing up in the Stone-Campbell heritage, I have missed much of what other Christ-followers have experienced during this Lenten season each year. Because of that, I am sad to confess, I haven’t reflected deeply on the meaning of Easter, until last year.
But since then, I have become convinced that this is the liturgical and sacramental season that the world cannot afford for us to miss. (In my own estimation, this is much more important than Christmas – especially since Christmas has been so effectively co-opted by the empire’s corporation).
I plan on posting several thoughts beyond what I’ll share today on the significance of this event, but these are my initial reflections.
(1) Easter is about more than death and resurrection. Easter is about slavery and freedom. Some “theologians” like to make everything in the gospels about death and resurrection. For example – some teach that the Sermon on the Mount is meant to convict one of one’s own sinfulness. Therefore, Jesus lived the Sermon faithfully for us, and died in our place for failure to live up to that high-calling, atoning for our sins.
But this is not permissible, and such theologies must be confronted. Jesus came to set free his people, the lost sheep of Israel. It is my understanding that Jesus was the highest ethicist, and an incredible social diagnostician. In other words, as Creator of humanity, world, and society, he perfectly understands what has held us (his people) captive and what has enslaved us. More than that, he understands how to be the people, polis, community, world, etc. that he has created us to be. Such understanding should inform, not just our reading of the Sermon on the Mount, but ground our theology of death, burial and resurrection.
The Passion of Jesus, is more than atonement for sin, deeper than salvation from judgment, beyond here-after hope. It’s meaning and implications extend into our own context and offer deliverance today, in time and history, in the flesh, here and now!
How? Our gentle King unmasked the empire, all empires (Luke 4:5-7), and showed them for who they are – false story tellers, anxiously searching for power, money, and control; demanding our allegiance and cleverly seeking God’s approval for their violent border expansion and defense. But Jesus showed that powerlessness, weakness, gentleness, love, and silent obedience disarms and redeems the slave and slave-owner, the captive and the captor.
And we are called to join up with this way, this peculiar community, to practice our faith in this “Way” – this journey to the cross and exercise in trust that the Father will vindicate. Atonement is important, and even central. But atonement is meaningless without the freedom from slavery it makes available.
(2) Easter is about a King and Kingdom, not about how resurrection fits into our systematic theology. Another way of saying it is, Easter is about a peculiar kind of Politics embodied and envisioned by a peculiar kind of King, rather than a system of belief about biblical and historical events.
Even more particularly, Easter is a story of the Father’s vindication of this peculiar King and his peculiar politics. And we are now (through participation in the Lenten season with it’s “acts of righteousness”, sacraments, and practices) part of that story – citizens of that peculiar society with it’s counter-cultural ethic and politics.
What does this mean to me? It means, for me, that the Father has underwritten what the Son has done. He has signed-off on the Son’s obedience to faithfulness and vindicated Him – exalting him to the right hand of God, making the kingdoms of the world his foot-stool. He has seen the kings of earth and their kingdoms – he has seen how the kings rule with an iron fist, using fear, violence, lust, anger, and greed as weapons to control their citizens. He has seen the Son rule gently and non-violently, and make himself the servant of all his own citizens, setting them free to be what God created them to be. He has seen all this, and has vindicated the Son – underwritten His Way!
And this restores our faith and trust, giving us the meta-narrative, the story of all stories, to shape our way forward. And forward we must go, being salt and light – showing the world the peculiar Way.
A system of belief, or mental ascent to historical circumstances could never be for us what this Easter season is.
(3) Easter is a journey with Christ to the cross, and then to share in his vindication. Easter is not a season of perpetual re-enactment of what once took place, rather it is a time of much needed story telling, inviting and re-inviting us to share in this story of death and resurrection.
A servant is not above his master. If I suffer, so shall you.
Take up your cross and follow me.
These are calls to join up with exactly what Jesus is doing. Calls to participation in peculiar kingdom activities.
This may seem subtle, but upon greater reflection it is of great significance. For if the disciple merely reflects upon Easter as an historical event, and views year after year the re-enactment of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection from afar, then she has missed yet again an opportunity to be grafted into God’s story, into Israel’s story and participate in the death and vindication of the Son.
I struggle internally with who suffers the most, when we fail to join that story each Easter Season. On one hand, my journey has lacked the companionship of this Easter Story, and I know from experience the disciple suffers from failing to join up with Jesus’ journey to death and resurrection. But the watching world, I think, suffers more. The kingdoms of the world so desperately need us, the possessors of the true narrative, to show them how to be the world it was created to be. To show them how to lay down their lives. To show them that poverty is riches. To show them that love triumphs over evil. To show them that to die is gain, and to live is Christ. To show them that suffering is sharing in Christ. To show them that violence is not the way. To show them that fear of death is the empire’s only weapon. To show them the way.
I am sure I will have much more to say over the coming weeks about Easter, but I write today to encourage your own and my own participation in this Lenten season.