Easter is the hardest Sunday of the year for me to preach. Every year our church fills with new visitors who understandably want to hear the typical children’s tales of Easter. How could these poor people know that our church is filled with freethinkers who would walk out if I preached such a message? These innocent visitors expect to hear the story about a dead guy who got up on Easter morning. They want to hear that they and their sweet children will also physically rise up from the grave if they recite and believe the magic words of religion. They have been taught a version of the story that denies death instead of one that illumines life. No wonder they do not really want to be in church!
I can see the flowers in their Easter bonnets begin to wilt as I tell them that Easter happened, not when a corpse got up, but when the disciples began to see Christ in each other. Visitors do not want to be told that Easter has not yet happened for them if they cannot see Christ in the face of a gay or lesbian person. Or that Easter has not yet happened for them if they cannot not see the face of Christ in the people they are calling “illegal immigrants.” After Easter has happened to a person, he or she can hear the profound love behind an atheist’s hatred of superstition. Easter is a celebration of this universal love that alone could save our world.
Most Easter visitors do not want to hear a living message that makes them uncomfortable. They prefer a comfortable story about waking cadavers that does not require that they, themselves, resurrect into the common life. They do not want to hear that the cross represented the threat of empire and so now the church is standing on the wrong side of that cross. Instead of presenting itself as a living sacrifice for the whole world, the church now consecrates the cross of the American Empire. The church must be told that, if they cannot see the cross in the form of our own killer drones, if they cannot admit that poverty is a form of crucifixion, then they are worshipping a dead Jesus not a living Christ.
I understand that Easter visitors not want to put on fancy clothes only to be reminded that those garbs were woven in sweatshops, which are also a crucifixion. Visitors at Easter certainly do not want to hear about the young Muslims arrested on the word of bounty hunters and now on hunger strike in Guantanamo because we took away their Korans. After Easter, to refuse to renounce our power and privilege over the weak and the poor is to deny Christ.
Easter is not a magical denial of death. It is a symbolic affirmation of life. Easter is not about a miracle that happened only for the Christian Church, it is an awakening into our one common life. Easter is remembering that, when we give ourselves to the one life, even our death teaches the Way.