I didn’t want to leave this series of brief columns hanging on Good Friday. So, Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia! Easter has arrived at last, and isn’t it good to get our Alleluias back.
Christians celebrate Easter in such a variety of ways that’s it’s hard to know exactly how each understands it. For me, Lent and Holy Week are important prefaces to the joy of Easter. It’s hard to imagine how it can be celebrated without them. Yet, in other traditions Easter pops out of thin air, set apart from other Sundays as special, but disappearing quickly within a week or two. I don’t know how to understand that. Does it really matter? Probably not, except to me.
The other day I saw a meme (who came up with that horrible word?), anyway, I saw a meme that said if you wanted a truly authentic Easter service, it should be held at sunrise with only women allowed to attend. It’s a good point. The gospel records agree that it was women, and only women, who were the first witnesses and bearers to others of the good news. Maybe men should not be allowed to say anything on Easter Sunday until two or three women in the congregation have announced the Resurrection.
This year marks an unusual confluence of Passover and Easter, at least in Western Christian tradition, which has resulted in news articles about how they are alike but different. It always seems a bit of a stretch to me, although both celebrate deliverance and new life. One remembers what it means to be slaves, wanderers, aliens in strange lands, yet delivered from bondage to freedom by God’s power and grace. The other remembers what it means that in death life is not ended but changed, and that God’s power to deliver extends not only to Jews, but to all humanity. The binding link between them for Christians is the Holy Eucharist, but there’s a large chunk of the Church that rarely celebrates Communion, so I don’t know that the link means much to them.
Some congregations try to hold ersatz seders as an illustration. Can it work without being faithfully embedded in thousands of years of Jewish history and practice? I doubt it. Having been a guest at several family seders, I have witnessed the depth of connectedness with those ancient Hebrews, and every generation between. It’s something Christians gathering in a church hall for a dinner that’s not a part of their heritage cannot apprehend, especially when they don’t understand their own traditions very well. Add that to knowing little of the anti-Jewish fervor the Church tolerated for centuries, sometimes inciting to fever pitch.
Having said that, I sometimes laid out a model seder table on Maundy Thursday, and spent time explaining what a seder is, means, and how it may have been understood by the disciples, but without pretending to equate it with the meal we were about to share. I tried that with the youth group once, and it did not go well. They just didn’t get it, nor should they have.
Passover and Easter. They each celebrate deliverance. What God has done, God continues to do still. For us, Easter is now. It is always now. Resurrection is ours anew with each new day. Because Christ is risen, we can rise. New life awaits, and Alleluias abound!