Friday, May 6, 2011

Examining the Easter Come-down

Logistically, Easter happens every year in the church calendar. When I was much younger, I figured out the Easter after I turned 33 would be the counterpart to the Christmas of 1989, the December after I was born. Obviously, now I know its not that simple. Religious holidays are a little different than national holidays, in that when we commemorate the birthday of a president or the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we celebrate a specific day that we can usually trace historically to some actual event that occurred on or around the designated holiday. However, with the religious calendar, as far as I know, the holidays are spread out sort of at random, and really based more on pagan ritual in practice at the time than any true evidence Christ was crucified on some day in late spring. So, based on the theme of the Holy week sermons at Marsh Chapel, I want to think about the believability of Easter, and also the significance.

Dean Neville approached this topic in his Saturday vigil sermon. He said, “The literal meaning of resurrection is not religiously interesting. So those of you who worry about whether you should believe in a literal resurrection that you find hard to believe can stop worrying.” I’ve never had a minister tell me not to worry whether Jesus actually rose from the dead. It seems incredulous to say whether the man Jesus actually came back alive or not doesn’t really matter. To me, saying that seems to, in transit, assert that perhaps Jesus did not rise from the dead at all, making Christianity itself a sham of some sort. As much as I love to question Christianity, the Bible, and anything philosophical or theological, questioning the resurrection of Jesus feels off-limits. Now that a well-esteemed and undeniably brilliant dean has opened the door and allowed me to explore these thoughts, though, I think wondering on the purpose of Easter opens an opportunity to be closer to God. For me, Dean Neville’s sermon allowed me to let go of my notion that there are certain avenues in Christianity that are simple, and unchangeably, one–way streets.

I need to reflect more before I can finish this post. What makes Easter important? Is it the celebration of the foundation of our faith? Or Easter’s ability to change hearts and minds? And is that change based off the literal resurrection, or the spiritual convincing that comes from the triumph over suffering? And, in the end, does it matter? And do these questions put me in the unfavorable position of the infamous Doubting Thomas?

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