The story of Easter reminds us of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This story told over-and-over has become tired and easily dismissed. Its wisdom is lost on the masses. Yet, Sunday after Sunday, Easter after Easter, we share the same story and break the same bread. We imagine the mystical Jesus crucified as an enemy of the state—a death that would have been seen as an utter humiliation to Christ and his followers and a barbaric display of power by the Roman government. We imagine that same Jesus literally rising, body and soul, from a borrowed tomb just three days after his execution. We imagine Jesus being greeted by his scared and grieving friends and their utter shock and disbelief as they are washed with a renewed hope. We have imagined this story in countless ways, but have we allowed ourselves to see how this story has been retold throughout our own lives?
Anytime we have been injured, broken a bone, had an operation, or been ill, in those moments we have felt helpless and possibly even forgotten what life was like when we were whole. Yet, time passed, bones healed, coughs faded, muscled moved with rehabilitated strength, and we forgot about the trauma of the past.
Anytime a loved one has died, we’ve moved through grief with disbelief, reflected on the times we failed to love them as we should, and felt that life would always remain empty without them. Yet, the sun continued to rise, and we woke up each day carrying not the burden, but the strength of their loving memories in our hearts as we continued to be living examples of their life.
Anytime we’ve fought with someone, said or done something we are not proud of, woken up the next morning questioning the decisions of the previous night, we have been crippled by the embarrassment to face the realities of our lives or even witness our own reflection. Yet, as we showered away the stench of old and shaved away reminders of the past, we’ve moved from our shadows and embraced the light of new life.
Anytime we have experienced this revolving door of injury-and-healing, pain-and-joy, of death-and-new-life we are experiencing the Paschal Mystery that has transcended time and woven itself into the various highs and lows of our life.
For anyone who has ever experienced a Christian Awakening Retreat, TEC, Karios, or any “Live the Forth” retreat, you should immediately recognize the lived experience of Christ’s death and resurrection. In the breaking open of stories, people shared the honest realities of their lives and rather than finding weakness in their vulnerability, a deep strength emerged. In the sharing of meals and prayers, you experienced a profound communion that provided a sacramental grace that nourished your life and enriched your fellowship with one another. In private moments of self-discovery, you came to know the intrinsic connections rooted in and through your life that has made you to be the “you,” you are meant to be. By moving into the dark night of your soul and taking a long, loving, look at your real-self you were able to remove any masks, die of your old-self and become newly-whole again. In a few short days, strangers became friends, memories never shared were revealed, and truths about faith were discovered.
We tell and retell the story of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection not because we know it to be historically true, but because we know it to be true in our lived experiences. The death and resurrection of Jesus did not just end with the rolling over of a tombstone, it continued for 40 days. Jesus did not just rise from the dead and prance around celebrating like he had performed a cheap magic trick. No, this newly awoken Jesus shared the miracle of his second-chance-life and Like Jesus, we are called to “awaken” this Easter season, to live the resurrection, to “Live the Fourth.”
The Easter season is about sharing faith, hope, and love in response to a situation that seemed impossible—rising from the dead. How can we look into the dark shadows of human existence and offer these theological virtues? How might we live so that God can live through our words and deeds? How can we encounter other people with the same humble hospitality that Christ gave to even the most unassuming people? What parts of our life need to die so that new life can flourish?
By examining the life of Jesus and recognizing the grace-filled moments in our own lives the answers to these questions are profoundly clear and simple. Numerous times in scripture, Jesus states that the “Kingdom of God is here,” because Christ does not want us to wait to make heaven alive, but to awaken to the presence of God in each and every person. In the Democrat and the Republican. In the Jew and the Muslim. In the Rich and the Poor. In the Black and the White. In the Gay and the Straight. Jesus lived with, walked with, and ate with the outcasts of society, because he saw the grace of God’s light in their presence. In moments of sin and despair, Christ forgave the most unlikely of people giving them new life and hope. Christ does the same with us, he forgives us when we cannot forgive ourselves. He heals when we don’t have the strength to wrap the wound. God opens when all we want to do is hide behind locked doors.
This Easter we are called to do the same. The new life of Jesus Christ means nothing if we cannot bring about new life and hope in ourselves. It doesn’t have to be major gestures, or service project. Rather it simple takes living a life of loving compassion that sees and welcomes others as they truly are, not who we want them to be. We are called to recognize the least among us and the least within ourselves and see not the brokenness, but to see the blessings. To accept the resurrection it means to live with a renewed sense of self.
Quite simply we are called to live our authentic selves. To come to know ourselves and recognize the gift people in our lives who have walked with us through our high and lows. To live out our ideals and find God in the common, unspectacular flow of everyday life. To recognize our failures and remove any masks and obstacles. To live out the Easter Season we are called to respond to the people in our lives with love and to “Live the Fourth.”