Pastor’s Perspective – April 2019
The Easter Bunny is once again at the Mall.
You can find the regal rabbit on the throne once occupied by Santa Claus and lovingly listening to the wishes and requests of young people across the country.
I am not sure what this might portent in our post-Christian society, but I know that there is something oddly appropriate about this seasonal symbol. A society that places its value and hope in the collection of material wealth would necessarily create a deity in which to make our pleas known; and the shopping mall is the appropriate cathedral in which to place these gods of acquisition. (Ouch!) It is not important to contemplate the origins of these symbols of divine authority, which seem to make less sense the more we hear about them, only that we understand the realm that they control. Behold the bedazzled gods of frivolous spending! (Did that hurt you as much as it did me?)
No one should ever question why these icons of American religion are popular. These ancient symbols both arrived in America with German settlers during the late 19th Century and rose to universal credibility during the modern age of acquisition (the 50s and 60s) in which they took on their current incarnation as the patron saints of retail commerce.
While I am not ready to begin a hunger strike to protest the Easter Bunny, it should be noted that behind the fun and games of our holidays sits ancient idols that represents the gods of this world. They harken back to the fertility idols and the fortune tellers of the old world. They are distant memories of a time in which the gods would shower fortune on those who showered fortune on the gods. Most importantly they are false gods, and false gods always speak to our own needs and tell us what we want to hear. The gods that endure have discovered that they need not say a word. They simply listen as we tell them our every desire.
Easter is a particularly difficult time to be a Christian in the market place of ideas. This is primarily because the message of Easter is so easily overwhelmed by the subtext that we have added to it. We all want to celebrate the white robed angels and the empty tomb, but we want to avoid the ideas of crucifixion, blood and death. We all love to speak of eternal life but would enjoy it more without the difficult discussions concerning sin and sacrifice.
The difficulties of Easter are enough to make the most religious of Americans make Easter all about Cadbury eggs and six-foot rabbits. But we cannot ignore the true purpose of Easter. We cannot allow the false gods of this world to overwhelm the message of the living God and Creator of the Universe. We cannot once again fail to tell the story of salvation to those seeking comfort in toxic treats and soul numbing distractions. We cannot stop telling people the truth about God’s plan for this world.
The true God doesn’t passively listen, the true God actively proclaims and leads. The true God reads truth into our lives and calls us to obedience and transformation.
The Triune God wants you to take your place at God’s side. He wants to walk with us and teach us and lead us.
All of this sounds great until you consider that the call of God is toward activity and effort. The metaphors of Biblical peace are all hopelessly outdated and darn-right annoying. Do people walk anymore? How many people would sell their first born in order to avoid parking at the rear of the lot? How many would run over their grandmother in order to claim that elusive street side parking spot in front of the market? The truth is that most people would rather ride than walk. It might not be attractional to invite people to walk with Jesus in a nation populated by overweight, Wal-Mart shopping, scooter jockeys. And don’t get me started about the perceived value of education…
The truth is always more difficult than the lie; which is why politicians avoid the truth and pharmaceutical advertisements hire auctioneers to reveal it in rapid fire warnings about the side effects of their miracle cure. The danger of idolatry is that it is a lie. It offers us something for nothing. It can offer us the world because the idol never has to pay the bill. The Easter Bunny never bought my kid anything. In fact, I had to pay him for the picture! False gods keep taking orders that you end up having to pay for, usually later, and with interest.
The beauty of the Triune God of the scriptures is that God never offers anything that God is not willing to provide for us in full. To pay for out of God’s own account. The message of Easter is that the sacrifice that God requires has already been provided by God. The question is and always has been, whether our sin sick hearts can see a good thing when it is offered.
Sin perverts our intuition and vision. It warps our desires and twists our purposes. Sin is like any other addiction, by the time you realize you have a problem it is too late. Or so we think. In the work of the Cross of Jesus Christ we can find freedom from sin and, through the love of God, the blood of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, change our vision and hearts. We are not condemned to live in the same loop of sin and regret, of desire and debt. We can be free.
Easter is the time in which we confront the solution that God has provided for a sin sick world. We encounter the perfect Son of God, crucified not only to show God’s love for you, but to change your vision, life, and this world. The Triune God bore our sins and sorrows and died our death to free us from our bondage of sin. The sad thing about Easter is that the same people who will send their kids to sit on the Easter Bunny’s lap will tell you that the story of Jesus doesn’t make sense. Perhaps it is wishful thinking to believe that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, but I stand with Paul who proclaimed that the wisdom of this world is made foolish by the scandal of the Cross.
Jesus took all that this evil world could dish out against Him and rose above it. He forgave His murderers and showed loved to those trapped in sin and condemned to death. When the world cut Him, He bled agape love. And then, when we killed Him, He could not be held in the grave.
On Easter, we encounter a resurrected Jesus who has defeated the evils of the world and the machinations of the Devil and his followers. We experience the transforming love of God that allows us to see all people as our brothers and sisters and calls us to show grace even as we have received it from God. On Easter we experience the eternal God who died and rose again. We remember His stripes and we wonder at His scars. We weep at the empty tomb and our hearts soar as we hear His voice once again. In Easter our hopes are revealed, and our prayers are answered.
Easter can change your life, but not if you learn about it in the Mall.
Come and join us as we continue to reflect on the work of God in Jesus Christ. Come and worship with us as we wonder at the power and purpose of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Walk with us as we explore and discover the questions and answers that can change our perspective and our world.
Encounter the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Encounter the meaning of the Cross. Encounter the glory of the resurrection. Encounter Easter anew.