It is easy to be all “Alleluia” and “He is Risen” when a vernal sun paints the land green and coaxes the daffodils to come out and play.
When the garden craves its seed and buds are ready to burst, new life is no big leap and an empty tomb is no surprise because everyone wants to be outside.
It’s different when Easter is still held fast in winter’s grasp, when the sky is as dark as Calvary’s view and no amount of vigil fire can lighten a cold-drizzled dawn. Where’s all that eighth-day joy and new creation when little hunters hold their baskets and stare out the window at the freezing rain?
When the weather is nice, Easter is easy. Sunday morning is the best answer to Friday’s despair. We’re people of a happy ending, and this one’s got to be the best. On a warm day, the creed flows freely with all the simple reassurance we demand: Christ died, Christ rose, heaven’s open, case closed.
That’s enough on a typical Easter, when the natural world seems to echo the story told. But the cold drives you inward and you can’t help wondering if that is all there is to a day that claims to reboot history and change forever the relationship between the world and its God.
I wrestle with these thoughts, struggling to understand just what this day means to me. I know it is more than a calculus of atonement, more than a belief, more than just about me.
Something is there, deep in my psyche, that pulls me into the day, but it offers no words, no explanation. I want to finish the sentence “Easter is ...” — but all I can do is leave it blank.
I read that Reinhold Niebuhr, the theologian who was also a pastor in the Evangelical and Reformed Church, hated to preach on Easter Sunday. He preferred to attend some high church with its incense, bells, and lofty music.
For him, what Easter meant was beyond all words and any attempt to preach its power always came up short. The best he could do was to immerse himself in ritual that never tried to explain, only to invite and exult.
I can’t find the words, either. But a gloomy Easter Sunday assured it doesn’t matter. Easter is who we are and why we are. It doesn’t matter if you can explain it, only that you live it.