Easter on the Margins
Yesterday, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus, the fact that the tomb is empty, that death was defeated, and that Christ reveals even more fully who he is through this event. It is the single most important event in all of history, at least for people who share in the Christian faith. If you are like me, then all week last week, you had the phrase “Sunday’s coming” on your mind. And so churches all over the world, although in a bit of a different way than normal, celebrated this day of singular importance with hymns, prayers, in sharing communion, and in reading Scripture. We declared “He is risen!” We tried to set up Zoom meetings with fellow Christians. We sent text messages, emails, or made phone calls to be with other believers outside of our own home. What a blessing!
But today is Monday. And today, we return back to this new way of life that we have all been pretty much forced into by circumstances beyond our control all over the world. Families wake up this morning to continuing to try to help their children with schooling while also trying to work. Healthcare professionals are still going to hospitals and clinics to treat those who are sick and ill. Small businesses are struggling to figure out when they will be able to apply for relief from government sponsored programs. Employees are being furloughed or laid off. Today, we wake up to a seemingly contradictory reality. A reality that pushes back against what we celebrated yesterday.
For yesterday, we declared that God’s glorious future was breaking into the present. That Sin and Death did not have the final word, that the gods of this world are not more powerful than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God that we see in the flesh in Jesus. That the Kingdom of Heaven is here among us, if we will have the eyes to see it. But today, we are faced with difficult decisions right in front of us. We are faced with a complex world that is getting more complicated by the day, hour, and minute.
So, how can Easter be true? How can it matter today? What can we do to continue to celebrate and live a life that is focused on what happened from Friday through Sunday?
Wow, you ask some good questions! Allow me to give you a few thoughts to try to help carry you this week.
First of all, it is important for us to remember that Sunday comes after Friday. The empty tomb comes after the cross. The table that God has set before us comes after walking through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23). This has always been the case. God has never promised us that life would be easy. Instead, as Kavian reminded us yesterday during our communion meditation, God is with us in the midst of the struggles of life. God suffers with us.
Think of the thieves who are crucified beside Jesus. One is repentant, and the other seems to join in with the taunting that onlookers are shouting at Jesus. But, to the repentant thief who asks for Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom, Jesus tells him that he will be with him in paradise today. Jesus doesn’t spare him his suffering, but ensures that his suffering is not the end of the story. That there can be grace and redemption on the other side.
Second, I would argue that it is in these kinds of situations and these moments where circumstances grow increasingly difficult that this is precisely where Jesus does his best work, especially in us and through us. Think with me about Jesus’ ministry. He is consistently seeking out and being sought out by the people who life has knocked down. The people who are sick and demon possessed, those who are considered traitors to their own people (tax collectors), and other “sinners.” And to these people, Jesus’ message is always one of good news. There is still reason to hope. There is healing to be found in Christ. When life gets tough, that doesn’t mean that God is not God, and it certainly doesn’t mean that God is against you.
The cross and the empty tomb teach us that Pain, Sin, Death, and all the other powers of this world that seek to keep us in their clutches do not and will not have the final word. Even the gods of Money, Power, Success, Fame, and the like promise us that we will be contented and happy only to keep us falling deeper and deeper into their clutches, but Jesus frees us and gives us new life. The cross and the empty tomb remind us that we don’t have to “keep up with the Joneses.” We don’t have to be defined by what we have, but instead can be defined by the one who created us from the start.
And this is good news! It is good news for the repentant thief on the cross beside Jesus. It is good news for those of us who today woke up and wished for a different reality or that things could get back to normal than they are today. Jesus does his best work in us and through us on the margins. Perhaps it is because on the margins, we are more prepared to listen to Jesus instead of ourselves. Perhaps it is because we are able to finally give our trust to God when we have nowhere else or no one else to give it to.
Which leads me to my last piece of encouragement today. First, God is with us in our moments of difficulty; Sunday comes after Friday; the empty tomb comes after the cross. Second, God does his best work in us and through us on the margins. And last, to live in Easter, we must daily choose to trust in God. We must daily place our faith in him. We must daily pick up our cross, and go with Jesus to our deaths. For it is in that moment, in that decision everyday that we are transformed. That our lives find their purpose–in life with our creator, in joining with the work of God, in finding contentedness. It is not in the practice of More. It is in dying to ourselves that we find life in God.
Jesus has shown us the way. Will we follow him?
Be blessed this week! Grace and peace.