No, I am not at the wrong church. Having recently discovered my inner Quaker, it somehow feels right to share a secret I have held from my extended Christian family for a long time.
I am not a big fan of Easter. Oh, I love the true meaning—I just don’t like what it has become. I think my former pastor’s analogy sums up the whole shebang for me: “Easter is the Christian Super Bowl.”
Well, what if you don’t like the Super Bowl? Don’t get me wrong—I like a good party and love to eat my share of rotten-for-me-tasty-vittles, laugh at outrageous commercials and enjoy the show, but the event itself is an overdone media spectacle and a mere shadow of what it was originally meant to be. Sort of American Idol meets American Gladiators with some football thrown in somewhere for flavor.
The Super Bowl/Easter analogy got a good laugh, but it also got me thinking (a foreshadowing, I am now certain, of my impending Quakerness.) What should be a celebration of rebirth, renewal and resurrection, Easter now seems to be more about Cadbury bunnies, pastel Peeps, and a strange story of a dude rising from the dead, zombie style, to walk among us. Not a pretty picture. It all just strikes me as, well, weird.
Somewhere along the way, through no fault of their own, Easter and her friend Christmas got dressed up like an Elvis impersonator in Vegas. And poor Easter has been “Passioned” beyond recognition.
Now, I am a relatively young Christian (about 4 years in) but I feel that I can confidently say most Americans know Christ died to save sinners. We see it on the TV and billboards, stenciled on t-shirts, on Facebook, bumper stickers, movies, and the radio. We even see jeans with a bedazzled cross on the rear pockets, giving unintended irony to the phrase “turn the other cheek.” Cross symbolism and language infiltrate the culture at every level.
What saddens me is that because of the continual focus on Jesus’ death and our subsequent “undeserved” redemption, many do not even know what He lived for. Now, I am by no means a biblical scholar or theologian, but here’s what I can see:
- He lived to tell us it was time to stop hiding from God and to turn to the Divine presence;
- He lived to tell us we should let our inner light shine and live as beloved children of God;
- He lived to tell us that we need to love each other no matter what and to leave the judgment to Someone else.
He lived and loved, taught and listened, laughed and cried. He broke bread with tax collectors and fasted like a priest. He did these things not as someone we should bow to, but rather as one we should embrace—a man and God all at once—even claiming we could do even greater things if only we could believe and have just a smidgeon of faith.
So simple. So elegant. So real.
And obviously so easy to screw up. As a species, we humans love to create Drama with a capital “D.”
And boy, do we ever like to watch a player get carried off the field on a stretcher. We want blood. We really want to see someone take the heat, the blame, the weight of our sin so that we can carry on as if nothing ever happened over and over and over. We are so busy killing the messenger that we forget He even had a message.
Symbols are important—make no mistake. There is a huge significance in the cross. Christ’s death was brutal, horrific, and terrible. So we print it on t-shirts, hang it on our living room wall, and worship His suffering, continually reminded of His sacrifice, our need to “repent,” and our status as born again Christians. But I feel like we are being asked to stop dying and instead be reborn with a new understanding. I believe this rebirth takes place in the act of repentance.
Jesus talked about repentance A LOT. Repentance has two historical meanings. There is the newer Latin paenitentia meaning to do acts of penance and contrition to receive grace. There is also the older, more accurate Greek metanoia meaning to turn around, to change one’s mind or heart about something. (I’d love to take credit for that bit of scholarship, but I found it online.) You see, when we beat ourselves up, we stay in a place of separation from God. When we see a better way, when we turn around and change
our path from a place of truth and understanding, we run full force into the arms of Love. As we walk along our path with Christ, He asks us to change a little each day, to become aware of how to love more fully, to let go, to let God take care of the worry. He asks us to be born a new creation each and every step along the way, acting out of forgiveness for self, love of others and accepting the peace of God.
This year I sat alone in my living room on Super Bowl Sunday, folding laundry and watching the game. I even allowed myself to enjoy it, though I still don’t understand why they chose the Material Girl for the halftime show. And in the spirit of repentance, I have decided it is time for me to give Easter a reconciliatory hug. We both need it. Besides, I think J.C. would want me to celebrate His re-birthday, though I think the zombie theme has got to go.