1 Corinthians 15:17-20 If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless . . . And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.
Did you have a nice Easter?
That question would normally think of Easter Sunday. In liturgical traditions, though, Easter began on Sunday, but it lasts fifty days, until Pentecost, June 9. Fifty days to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ! I want to consider during these weeks some of the implications of this biggest “But God” of them all. After Pentecost I’ll go back to posting the rest of the Stones of Remembrance.
At our church here in Pittsburgh, the 6:00 a.m. Easter vigil is one of the highlights of the entire year. The service begins in total darkness. The last time we’ve been in this space was Good Friday, after the “stripping of the altar” at the Maundy Thursday service, when all decorations were removed from the church, leaving it bare. The pastor walks up the dark aisle singing “The light of Christ” while candles are lit behind him. When all the lights come on halfway through the vigil, we are rewarded not only by an explosion of glorious praise music and the sunrise shining through the stained glass, but by flowers everywhere, with all of the normal accoutrements back in place. It’s a breathtaking celebration of Resurrection glory.
Our first few years in São Paulo we attended a church that didn’t have an Easter sunrise service. Since this was a cherished tradition for us, we decided to have our own. We lived a few blocks from one of the city reservoirs (called a represa). The six of us (Dave and I and our four small children) would make our way there while it was still dark, spread a blanket over the dewy grass, and shiver together, singing Easter songs as the sun rose. Then we enjoyed an Easter breakfast picnic.
The delight of these events was somewhat marred by what was revealed around us as it grew light. One year I actually took pictures. Holding the camera at the right angle, the scene was lovely:
Lowering the camera just a little, though . . .
Not quite the same impact as the experience at Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh. And yet, there’s a parable here. The light of Christ reveals what’s true in our lives, so we can face it and offer it to him to clean up—which is too big a job for us, but he can do because he conquered sin on the cross! We go to him as we are, and as he brings new life to us, we can extend it to others.
Two remnants of my childhood come to mind. One is the song “Brighten the corner where you are.” The other is my mother’s training: “Always leave a place better than you found it.” I find that a renewed challenge to myself this Easter season. Not just in terms of ecology—though that is VERY relevant to living out Easter, as the resurrection reverses the original curse and takes us back to the Genesis mandate to tend the garden—but in terms of order, and peace, and hope, and joy.
By the way, that area by the represa? It’s been transformed into a lovely park! Loide, one of my best friends in São Paulo, presented a proposal to the city that was accepted and has transformed that little corner of the megalopolis. It’s another part of the parable . . . I’ll be there next week, and will try to remember to take a photo for you.