On a Mesa overlooking the town of Sedona stands a cross erected some years ago by the Knights of Columbus. It’s where my family and I, along with my mother in law, would gather every Easter morning at sunrise; one year standing in 4” of snow, for the ecumenical service.
Religious rituals, especially in places of natural beauty, connect us to another place, traveling there at least in our minds. Easter in Sedona was always a deeply spiritual experience, as the natural beauty pointed to an intelligent and creative designer and the holiday pointed to that Being’s desire to be in fellowship with us.
A lifetime of education and experience haven’t dimmed my faith in the truth of Easter although it perhaps has changed my interpretation thereof. If anything, knowing the Earth is billions of years old and the universe is even older and expanding increases the wonder of it all.
The idea that God touched humanity in the person of Jesus resonates with me. Not because I worry God will send me to hell without a swamp cooler, but because I think Jesus is what God looks like, only maybe a little dustier. Jesus spent his time with the lonely, the sick, the poor and depressed. Common people. People like me.
I don’t think God attends too many rich churches, unless maybe there’s a really good band. Jesus said it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. I finally think I have figured out what that means. It’s not that God doesn’t like rich people. In fact wealth can be used for great good. But when it comes to knowing God too many rich don’t think they need Him. They are self-sufficient, at best paying lip service to religion.
Easter tells us the way of Love is to empty ourselves freely and to store up treasures in heaven. In giving we receive the greater gift. Easter teaches us that in the midst of despair there is hope, out of death comes life. Out of law comes grace. It’s a good thing too, because I need lots of grace. We all do, but I am richer for knowing it.
Easter is the bookend to Christmas. It is what gives Christmas its meaning. Without Easter, Christmas is just trees and presents. With Easter, Christmas becomes a celebration of one kingdom touching another.
Jesus shows us how to live. He never taught a magic incantation to protect us from hell. He never taught eternal torment or that God says, “love me or else”. He did say, “follow me”.
This Easter I contemplate what it means to follow Jesus in a world that’s broken and clearly needs his example. I see how I fall short again and again but also, I can see the grace extended to me and how I can extend it to others. This is the message of Easter: grace extended to us that we are to extend to others.
I won’t be in Sedona this Easter morning. I’ll be in a church with my kids renewing a faith that’s tried and tested and evolving. I’ll be renewed and strengthened by the familiar refrains and a story I know by heart. I’ll hold onto my faith amidst my doubts and recall that even Jesus was weary and weak and required restoration at times. In that truth I will be restored once again.
Wishing you a happy Easter.