Sunday School teachers and parents everywhere had the great challenge yesterday of trying to pry our children’s thoughts away from chocolate and bunnies long enough to get something of the meaning of Easter into them. As they fidgeted we can only hope that they gave us the answers they believe and not just the answers they know we want to hear.
Easter, just like Christmas, finds me angry at the over commercialization of everything and the senseless parts we add to what is already a very full and real story. But I have my own rabbit trails that deviate from what this important season is all about (especially now that I’m old enough to buy my own chocolate). Yesterday, we all dressed up, cooked a massive Turkey, saw friends, went to church, had family over and over indulged so that I could feel a sense of joy out of the day.
But I realized this Easter Monday afternoon, that Easter is not about joy.
I want it to be about joy and I want it to make me and everyone around me happy, because if Easter is about joy, then that is a miracle that I can try to fabricate myself. The empty tomb is just my backdrop. I can buy good things, eat good things and be with good people and that will momentarily and artificially lift the seasonal affective disorder this long winter has produced.
But joy is no more the meaning of Easter than chocolate or bunnies.
There is nothing holy about Easter Monday, yet Jesus is alive and is stirring me through some very unjoyful things. When I opened my Facebook account this afternoon the first thing I saw was a picture of the courtyard of Garissa University in Kenya filled with dead bodies from a terrorist attack that killed almost 150 Kenyan students. Though this happened on Maundy Thursday, it carries an Easter message. It brings to reality the brutal political death of Jesus and the incredible forces of evil that were heaved on Him and that continue to be heaved on Christians and others, lest we should forget for a second (amidst chocolate eggs and smiling family) that we live in a depraved and sin filled world.
Not a minute after seeing this image, the phone rang with the news that my friend and mentor Marianna Stack died this morning. She is someone who knew how to get things done. With her tireless energy she used her retired years to pursue justice for incarcerated women, teach wholeness in the community, and mentor a love of reading in children across demographics (but with a clear penchant towards those who have less). Her loss leaves a deep, dark hole in our community, not unlike the darkness that was once sealed inside a certain tomb.
It is for these moments that Easter exists. It is not so that we can no longer feel sad. It is not just to clap our hands and feel our spirits lifted. I can tell you that there will not be much joy in my community or in communities across Kenya today, or even this week. But that does not mean that we will be without hope.
When Jesus appeared alive to his disciples, they were initially a little afraid. It’s only when he showed them his pierced body and ate with them that they saw how all the horrors he went through were turned to victory.
It is easier for me to see the victory in Marianna’s life and now in her fullness in Christ, then to see it in the deaths or terrorist attacks. But David Bentley Hart, in his book The Story of Christianity, remarks that with Easter “comes the possibility of seemingly impossible reconciliation, the healing of wounds that normally could never be healed, and the hope of beginning anew precisely when all hope would seem to have extinguished”.
There is nothing that I can do that can produce that kind of hope. There is no colourful egg that can hold this kind of healing.
May we have hope then this Easter season, even as we are hit with the worst that humanity and death have to throw at us. For there is one who has conquered the grave, there is one who has gone through all of this and who now claims victory on our behalf. Surely this victory means more than any joy we may provide for ourselves.
By Jasmine Chandra