Man sitting on rock wall

All Fuzzy Bunnies, Colorful Eggs, a Fancy Lunch; Oh, and a Church Service…

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Jay Smith, YTI President and Bridger Professor of Theology & Ethics

March 30, 2018

Is this what we settle for? Easter

When we really think about Easter in contemporary America, what are we really celebrating? Christians know that we are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus; or at least so we think. In an increasingly secular America, Easter has returned to its Saxon and Germanic roots: Eostre, or Ostara. Ostara is the Germanic “goddess of the dawn” and with this goddess, the ancient Saxons and Germans celebrated fertility and the new life of spring. The early Anglo-Saxon Christians in England began adopting the pagan customs of the spring festival of Ostara in the early 19th century, and those customs migrated to the United States.

As “Easter” became synonymous with the celebration of spring, the religious observance of Pascha—Passover and Resurrection—have slowly faded and blended into this cultural observance. Contemporary Christians in America celebrate spring and fertility almost as much as we remember the resurrection of Christ.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I love spring, the new birth of plant and animal life, etc. I love the smell of the first flowers of the year. Here in Montana, the lilac blooms and by its sweet fragrance we know that summer is coming. Yet, as followers of Christ, Easter must take on a much different tone than simply another celebration.

Call it what you will, but this day is resurrection day. It is the day we remember, rejoice and revel, not only in the resurrection of Jesus, but also in His promise that we too are resurrected. In our faith, the Holy Spirit resurrects us now. The lives that we live on this earth, here and now, are resurrected. Now, we are freed from the hold of sin, and the fear of death. We are empowered and led by the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit. We are the focus and the fountain of divine love. We are now continuing the mission of Christ in this world, and in the power of Christ. How do we call ourselves Christians, Biblical Christians, if we do not know that simple fact?

Our spiritual senses have been dulled by our world. We have taken to infighting, and divided into sects where we have become Catholic, Protestant, Mainline, Evangelical, Charismatic, Fundamentalist, Pentecostal, and so on. We have forgotten what it means to be people of the resurrection, as well as people of the cross. We have forgotten that we are people of the Spirit, not simply people of the “Book.” We are flawed and “worldly,” and yet we are resurrected and full of self-giving love for our fellow human beings.

As bearers of the cross and temples of the Spirit, we cannot stand for a consumer-focused church. The church that simply makes us feel better about ourselves is no substitute for actually living the life that God has called us to live in the Spirit of Christ.

My challenge to you this Easter is very simple: live the resurrection now!