Worship: What it means to die and rise

WorshipYou may have seen the new ABC show “Resurrection” or the billboards asking the question, “Did I really die?” Eternal life, resurrection and reincarnation (which means “re-fleshing”) were strong themes in the show “Lost” and will surely be a part of the new series. It’s no coincidence that the network premiered the show in the spring, near the celebration of Easter.

Easter is the most important and oldest festival of the Christian Church, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus and held (in the Western Church) between March 21 and April 25, on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. The word Easter is thought to have come from the Anglo-Saxon word “eostre,” a Germanic goddess associated with the dawn, in whose honor a spring festival was held each year. By the eighth century, the spring festival, which incorporated rabbits and eggs as signs of new life, had been replaced by the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, but the name stuck (as did the bunnies and chicks). The breaking of the dawn, the emerging of flowers and the return of birds after a long, cold winter seemed a fitting time to mark the day when Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead.

The essence of Easter is resurrection. From death comes life; from despair springs hope; from ashes, beauty emerges. The concept of resurrection, if you stop and think for a moment, is downright strange and stupendous, even incredible.

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The essence of Easter is resurrection. From death comes life; from despair springs hope; from ashes, beauty emerges. The concept of resurrection, if you stop and think for a moment, is downright strange and stupendous, even incredible.

Or is it? We believe that life can come from death every time we mulch a garden. We know that communities once riddled by drugs and hatred can be transformed to places of peace and justice. Our bodies demonstrate an amazing capacity to heal after the destruction of cells. And, we know that from our own mistakes and failures, we can often emerge as stronger and better people. Paradoxically, something has to die in order for there to be a resurrection.

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Jesus said of his own death and resurrection, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)

The Christian message is that Jesus was tortured and killed on a cross, was dead for three days and then rose on the third day. He didn’t sleep off the brutality he endured, suddenly wake up and walk out. He was dead. From death he rose again. The essence of Easter is not resuscitation, but resurrection. It’s a celebration of the belief that we, too, can share in Christ’s resurrection.

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So really, Easter is about hope. It’s the hope that there is something beyond the grave, but also that we can be changed in this life for the better. It’s about the here and now. We can live as people who are forgiven and blessed, kind and compassionate. Our lives and communities can rise up from the ashes to become beautiful again, in the breaking dawn of a resurrected life.

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