He is risen!

Did you know that the word Easter comes from the name of a pagan goddess of fertility, spring, and the sun? I think that’s great. Though Jesus didn’t name the holiday, he did occasion it, and it’s just like him to take something old and dead and make it new, give it new meaning and life. How fitting that the old gods should be pressed into the service of our High and True God. Easter is an allegory, a paradigm, an archetype. Every time you say the name, you should be reminded that Jesus takes old idolatries and redeems them, transforms them, takes the sin out of them and makes them fit for his service. He takes old enemies and makes them servants; more, he makes them friends, heirs, children. History is an anecdote in the great proclamation of the glory of his love. The water of this baptism turns lead into gold, pagan temples into sanctuaries, sinners into saints. The sun whose rising in former times was the mark of a god now marks the rising of God. Happy Easter.

He is risen indeed!

Holy Saturday


I’m so grateful that Holy Saturday is a memory, not a reality. Jesus is not in the grave.

I thought of this song last night, the words of which were written by Delores Dufner. Very fitting.

O wheat whose crushing was for bread,
O bread whose breaking is for life,
O life, your seeming end is seed,
a seed for wheat, or bread and life.
O fruit whose crushing was for wine,
O wine whose flowing is for blood,
O blood, your pouring out is life,
our life in you, O fruitful vine.
O life whose crushing was for love,
O love whose spending was to death,
O death, your mourning is our joy,
full joy and birth to lasting life.
Sunday’s comin’.

That’s Why They Call it ‘Good’

It’s Good Friday.

Last night was our Maundy Thursday service at Bethlehem. It was very moving, as usual. At some point during the evening, as some song in a minor key was playing, I thought to myself, Why is there such a timbre of sadness here? Passion week is the crux of our faith. Of course the sadness only lasts for the night; joy comes Sunday morning. But the fact remains that there is a real grief and sadness associated with our remembrance of the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ, even though we know that it was planned, and that it was not the final word.

That got me thinking: Christians might just be the healthiest people in the world when it comes to dealing with the twin realities of pain and joy. Last night, as we were mourning the worst crime in history and our sin that necessitated it, there was an air of hope and anticipation as well. While it is Friday, we know Sunday’s coming. And because there’s an Easter Sunday, all of our Fridays will always be Good, even when darkness descends at the sixth hour. When Jesus died and rose again, he changed the duality of our experience of grief and rejoicing forever.

This means we Christians can weep, truly weep for evil and atrocity without being destroyed by it. And we can rejoice, truly rejoice for good favor and fortune without needing to forget about suffering. I suppose that’s the nature of hope: it unites such disparate things as pain and joy in the reality that our Lord endured the cross for the joy set before him.

So weep tonight, knowing that joy comes with the dawn of Sunday morning; and rejoice this Easter knowing that your joy is rooted and grounded, not an illusion of happiness in the face of a bleak reality.


In Memoriam

It’s very late as I’m writing this, though it won’t post until tomorrow morning. Forgive me if I write anything untoward.

A quick word on Holy Week: Some ancient Greek philosopher (whose name escapes me- it’s almost midnight) said that memory is “the rebirth of understanding.” That’s an interesting perspective, and I think a significant one for us.

Christianity is a historical religion, like Judaism. What I mean by that is not that Christianity has been around a long time, but that the propositions set forth in its doctrine depend on historical events- namely, the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, and the pouring out of the Spirit on Pentecost. It doesn’t matter what we say if those things didn’t happen; if Christ is not raised from the dead (to paraphrase Paul), then we may as well all take our ball and go home. Nothin’ to see here.

Since our faith is historically rooted, we spend a lot of time looking back. Unlike, say, a Buddhist, it is necessary for a Christian to know at least a little bit of history. This can seem dry, particularly in regard to Holy Week, wherein we rehearse the same events every year, world without end, and so on. Jesus only died once; why do we have to dredge it up again and again? I remember well enough from last year, for crying out loud.

I think there are a lot of reasons why we ought to constantly keep the work of Christ at the front of our minds, but I’ll offer this one from our Greek friend: memory is the rebirth of understanding. Every time I remember the work of Christ for me, the events leading up to his Passion and the events following, some new insight in born. Because though the events don’t change, I change. I’m not the same man I was last Easter. I have committed different sins, I’ve seen more grace, I encountered different circumstances- I’m in a different spot, and so looking back, I see a different angle to that familiar old story.

I think it’s safe to say that we won’t ever exhaust all that Holy Week has to offer. So keep remembering- you may be surprised at what you see.