As a child growing up, Easter, like Christmas, was filled with joy and celebration. It was not only the chocolate bunnies, painted eggs, and new clothes, but also that the whole community was part of this joyous experience. Along with the change of season from winter to spring, I understood there was something in the air that was bigger than I could have even imagined. It was as if I had been invited to a celebration without having to do anything; it was my first encounter with grace. What I didn’t appreciate at the time was that this is the foundation of communion.
For most of my life I took many things for granted. The journey of Holy Week changed many of my perceptions, especially as I was preparing to be received into the Episcopal Church during the Great Vigil of Easter. To travel the journey that is Holy Week is to see the world with new eyes: that is, seeing things as they are through the eyes of God. To do so means that everything has new meaning and purpose. Holy Week confirms that suffering is real, but it’s not the end of the story. It says that human behavior isn’t the only thing we can count on.
The journey of divine wisdom begins with Ash Wednesday, when we are reminded that “you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” symbolizing the same dust that God used to create all that is. No matter what, we continue to be agents of God’s ongoing act of creation. In the washing of feet we take part in an act of servant leadership that is the will of God in human flesh. We learn that suffering is as real as the suffering of Jesus from the cross when asked his burden to be lifted. In the words of Fr. James Martin, “the mystery of suffering is unanswerable,” no explanation suffices for our human pain, and therefore what Christians must offer instead is the person of Jesus Christ. Lent allows us to see the degree to which we have lost our way by not loving our neighbors as ourselves, while not loving God with our whole selves. What we are made to see is that love is paramount, that God took on human form so that death and suffering would not have the last word. For it is in God we live and move and have our being.
This is what Easter is about. It is about being reminded and renewed. God is still creating out of the chaos, bringing light into darkness. For Jesus has told us that he would not leave us as orphans when he proclaimed that “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you for he is the Alpha and the Omega: the beginning and the end.” Or in the words of the Palmist: He revives my soul and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
Alleluia, Christ has risen!
The Reverend Keith C. Lane, Assisting Priest