This Easter, in a year of our Covid winter, I found myself singing over and over again: “Every Morning is Easter Morning from now on....” (©Avery & Marsh Hope Music 1972).
And I wondered, over and over again, how did we let the deepest meaning of Easter slip away so completely?
And were we even aware of how we have gutted all the meaning out of the revolutionary, deep awareness of God’s transforming presence in the face of death?
This Easter, I listened to many preachers and worshipping congregations proclaim “He is Risen!" I heard leaders pleading for enthusiasm, and people weakly responding.
They sung familiar words such as: “Love’s redeeming work is DONE!”, ...”made like him, LIKE HIM WE RISE.”, “Easter People, raise your voices, SOUNDS OF HEAVEN in earth should ring...”, and “ALL CREATION IS REBORN!” But they all rang hollow as we all returned to our daily struggle hours and days later.
What the Easter hymns were proclaiming was a total, radical transformation not just of us, but of all creation!
But just like Christmas, within a week, the words once sung, the divine glory proclaimed, were put away until next year. This Holiest of all Holy-days was just a spring “holiday/day off.” No longer transformative.
Easter is vanishing not by a blizzard of consumer spending, but intentionally, from the pulpits and from the lives of the faithful as well.
The church over the ages has tried to counter this loss by celebrating Easter for fifty days. Yet every preacher knows the Sunday after Easter is “low” Sunday. Some try to attract a few back with a “Holy Humor” on that Sunday, as if the mere presence of laughter could permanently fill the void in our lives. Others are resigned to the fact that the occasional worshippers of Easter have left, and only the “weekly loyalists” show up to continue the faith and so have a staff member or a guest speaker preach.
What happened? Where did everybody go? Did they not undestand what the story was really about? Were they not open to being transformed by the presence of God in their lives?
Sadly, many preachers have turned the weekly celebration of living in God's heaven here on Earth into a motivational seminar that uses "shoulds" and "oughts." There's a heavy undercurrent of guilt and a perpetual desire to emulate the hebrew testament prophets rather than the good news of the kin(g)dom.
(Now we must be careful not to long with nostalgic sentimentality for the “throngs” that packed the Easter pews to overflowing fifty years ago. For much of what we called “church” back then was mostly social, spectacle and a "feel good faith.")
The REAL Easter, the revolutionary, transformational, “God’s power breaking through all our expectations” is something completely different. And it happens all year long! It happens in our hearts.
Perhaps it would mean more if it had a new name?
How about: “Kingdom Come Day?” or “Heaven’s Reality Day?” or “Transformation of the World Celebration?” or “Heaven on Earth Forever?”
Perhaps if it were something to remind us that in the death and resurrection of God’s son, Jesus, the Messiah HAS arrived, and a new reality HAS dawned on the world.... on all of us!
Our scriptures tell us that we are living in the midst of heaven RIGHT NOW!
The Easter story actually starts at the beginning of the Christian (New) Testament:
“The Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" (Mark 1:14-15, Luke 3:2)
It is “the Year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18) and
“To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
It is this new reality that becomes visible and evident on the first Easter Morning with the power of fear and death being broken forever. This is our deepest joy, Hope forever realized that allows us to live in the presence of God continuously.
Because of the Resurrection of Christ, St. Paul identifies the faithful as “citizens of Heaven.” (Phil 3:20)and reminds us that “...as many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ...” (Gal3:27) before pointing out that because of Christ, our fleshly existence is no longer important... (Gal 3:28).. and concludes with “for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
And so, the glorious music, the flags, the choirs, the ceremony and inspiring words really need to happen EVERY WEEK as a reminder that every week is Holy Week, ... a week full of wise teaching and brutal death. A week of fellowship gatherings and challenges to love more deeply than every before. A week that reveals that the promised Christmas “Emmanuel” is truly with us, now AND forever, no matter how brutal life around us become.
We can make the Avery and Marsh song real by opening our eyes and listening with our ears to the heavenly music that’s all around us in creation, every day proclaiming God’s greatness and gracefullness in our hearts! We can live the truth that EVERY Sunday is truly a celebration of Easter and WE ARE an Easter People every day!
We can take seriously the choice to either live in God’s heaven or to live our life as a “living hell.”
We no longer need to fear and to live in anger, discouraged by disappointment, depression and overwhelmed by grief. Instead we can expand the beauty, joy and hope that comes with living on a spiritual level far different, yet in close contact with, a physical world that is limited and never completely meets our expectations.
We need not only long for the childhood joy of new discovery every day, but we can realize that such joy is but a heartbeat away, a heartbeat that takes the small step from cynicism to gratitude until it becomes habitual.
Holy Week becomes Holy Years, which become an eternal Holy Life when we are willing to let God do the miracle of deep transformation in our hearts, renewing our thoughts of holiness, filling our actions and lives with unconditional love as self-centered, destructive thoughts and actions get pruned away.
When we let God change all that destroys us and then fills our hearts with all that is loving, just, graceful and Christ-filled, we truly become human and alive.
The power of "God is Alive!" is a gift of heaven so close we can touch it, so real as to be transformed by it, and so active as to live in it right now, even while looking forward to a much greater glory.
Don’t let Easter vanish. As an “all in” follower of Jesus, living in that part of the kin(g)dom of heaven that’s already present here on earth, let’s let every morning become Easter morning..... from now on!