It turns out that writing for a monthly magazine is not unlike life in ministry. We are always looking ahead to a season we are not currently living. As I write this, it is cold and cloudy, the kind of gloomy day it seems we’ve had too much of this winter.
But this is Texas, so a few days ago it was warm and sunny. My neighbor’s pear tree is showing white. As I walk my dogs around the neighborhood, daffodils are poking their delicate petals out. It seems I’m not the only one anxious for a new season. Yet, by midsummer, I’ll be begging for rain and cold.
As modern city folk, we can become disconnected from the seasons. We can control our environment to avoid the worst of the weather. Global agriculture and shipping mean that everything is always in season. My father used to tell me about watching a cold front come in across the fields in front of his childhood home, a wall of cold air rustling the crops. Even though he hasn’t lived in that rural world for 50 years, he still knows when a strawberry is really just right.
In the Christian church, we also have seasons. Each year, we rehearse the rhythm of birth, death and rebirth. It begins at Christmas with hope, peace, joy and love. It ends tragically in the death of Jesus on the cross. Then life begins again in the Easter resurrection. Just as a dancer practices movements until they become automatic, until what once seemed impossible becomes routine, we rehearse until we master the impossible feat of rising from the dead.
Death comes in many forms. Loss of life, obviously. But it can also be the loss of a job, the end of a relationship or an illness or injury that redefines the contours of our lives. Each of these can tear away at the person we thought we were, each one a little death. Each with an opportunity to rise again.
But Easter commemorates the rising of a particular person from a particular death. Jesus did not just die; he was executed for standing against the oppression of his people by the Roman Empire and its accomplices in Jerusalem. His death was a sign and a warning to any who would resist this power. He was a just man treated unjustly. He stood for every innocent who suffers at the hands of the powerful – in life and in death. Rising from this death was God’s retort and the rallying cry for those who followed him.
As we rehearse the Easter resurrection, as we each rise from our little deaths into new life, we must also echo that rallying cry, speaking hope into the lives of those who suffer. Every day, people are marginalized, exploited and oppressed by the powers and principalities of this world, the systems of power in which we are all enmeshed. Racism. Sexism. Heterosexism and homophobia. The degradation of the Earth. Impoverishment. These – and so many others! – deal death to people every day. If we are to call ourselves an Easter people, a resurrection people, we must not only rise, but rise up against these death-dealing systems so that all might rise.
In Easter, death is overcome. At Easter time, let us preach what we practice, the promise of new life for all.