"We Shall Overcome"
- Easter at the Desert Retreat House-
Today is Easter Sunday, the most important holiday on the Christian calendar, the Day of Jesus’ Resurrection. Many people who aren’t particularly religious may still celebrate this day as a springtime festival with fresh flowers, chocolate eggs, a family brunch; but even for those who do attend church today, my guess is that many won’t really spend all that much time thinking about Easter as the Day of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
After all, it’s pretty hard to get your head around the idea of someone who had died coming back to life again; and so, many Christians today may simply avoid thinking about what the resurrection means and stick to the much safer ground of bunnies and brunch.
As I see it, we miss the point of Easter by thinking that the resurrection story tells of a day when the the dead body of Jesus flickered back to life again, the day when the resuscitated body of Jesus walks out of his dark tomb into the morning light. In fact, there is not one story in the Bible describing or depicting how Jesus’ dead body had been resuscitated after he died. The Easter stories are resurrection stories not resuscitation stories.
The Easter stories found in the Christian scriptures are mystical testimonies about how the earliest Christians somehow continued to experience Jesus’ real, living presence among them after he had died. Even though he had died he had been raised up.
Back when Jesus lived on earth, the mighty powers of the empire tried to kill him, to crush him and everything he stood for. They executed Jesus on a cross and were sure that with his death his message of all inclusive love would also die. They crucified Jesus in the belief that this would put an end to his dangerous teaching about the intrinsic dignity of every human being. But that’s not all what happened. Even after he was executed, Christ and the love he proclaimed still continued on, even stronger than before, even to this very day.
The Easter message is a universal proclamation about the ultimate victory of Love. The Easter message proclaims that, while there will always be hatred and violence, bigotry and racism in this world, in the end, Love is always stronger than hate and life is always more powerful than death.
I am reminded of a story I heard a few years ago about a wise old bishop who, after an Easter Sunday Service was asked if he believed in the resurrection? The bishop’s extremely astute answer was:
Of course I believe in the Resurrection,
I’ve seen it too many times not to believe it.
I love that answer, it resonates deep within me. Whenever any one of us witnesses the power of Love overcoming the chaos of hate, we see Easter happening. Whenever we are pulled down into the darkness of death and violence, and still believe that in the end, Love will be the ultimate victor, we see Easter happening.
The Easter message fills me with hope and audacity. It allows me to live boldly and fully because I know that no matter how bad things may seem to be in the world or in my own life, Love will ultimately be victorious - you can’t kill Love, you cant kill “God.”
On this Easter Sunday I recall something Dr., Martin Lither King Jr. once said. It is a universal Easter message spoken to all humankind on this Day of Resurrection:
But even in the midst of chaos
I refuse to believe that humankind is tragically bound
to the starless midnight of racism and war.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love
will have the final word.
Yes, I still have the audacity to believe that
we shall overcome.