Waiting for Easter: A Test of Belief and Bunnies

My 5 year old cynic has never quite taken to the whole Santa Claus bit. That’s ok with us. We’ve never really pushed it. We followed his lead on the mystical holiday creatures, careful not the scare him too terribly with parental betrayal later on when the truth is revealed. For whatever reason, however, he is sold on the Easter bunny. I have no idea why. Maybe because, keeping with the cynic motif, at 3 years old he was terrified to leave the house on Easter Sunday morning because the “Easter bunny would come and take all his eggs.” Eventually, he sorted out the particulars in daycare.

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In my time as a pastor, I found Easter season the most difficult liturgical season to preach through, not just because of the demands of the calendar, but because it asks us (or people expect might be more accurate) to say something that the rest of the year does not. There is an expectation of loud declaration and trumpets and finality that just doesn’t sit well on a day when hundreds of Sri Lankan Christians are bombed where they worship. That sits in the space of Advent or Lent or anywhere else.

But what do you do when people are hurting on Easter and what do you do when belief is the last thing a person can find? Do they still belong in the community of faith?

We want belief to be about willpower and decisiveness, but if we are honest with ourselves, it’s more finicky than that. The ebb and flow of belief should not be an embarrassment in the Christian church but the revelation of resurrection itself.

This weekend it was revealed publicly that the woman I would deem pastor to many doubters, Rachel Held Evans, was in the ICU. It was an unexpected and devastating announcement, and no good news has come since. The hashtag #PrayforRHE emerged as Sarah Bessey and others called for prayer. Evangelicals and Exvangelicals alike took to Twitter to offer words of prayer and comfort. What struck me was how many started with “I don’t really pray anymore but…” or “I don’t even know how to pray…” There were former Christian leaders who are now agnostic that offered prayer because of their profound love of a friend. This was the kind of response from Christian “celebrities” and lay persons alike.

I think Easter looks a little bit like this. It’s not loud (though my example is a bit more public than maybe the average situation). It’s not expected. It might even be ever so brief. A moment in the garden and then we’re left to grapple with the experience and what we will do next. And I think that’s ok.

What I do know, is that it’s a familiar love that brings us to that moment, that even brings us to a place to recognize it’s holiness at all.

If we can be a people of love, I think we can be a people who see a little more Easter too. Maybe we can see a little less thieving Easter bunnies and a little more life-giving Easter.

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