I'm going to explain - once and for all - the TRUTH about the Easter story. Ready? I watched my 4 year old granddaughter dyeing Easter eggs this week and I was overwhelmed by the TRUTH of the Easter story.
Eggs are very fragile and must be handled with care - remember that.
The Easter story is played out in the liturgical year between Maundy-Thursday and Easter Sunday. On the surface it is the tragic story of how a God-Man was betrayed by those he loved and the religion he upheld and then put to death. It is also a story with a surprising ending. Within three days of his death, his friends and disciples (the ones that were still alive) began to talk about how he wasn't dead anymore. Thus began the story of the resurrection. Soon thereafter talk began about how his resurrection was more significant than just the restart of his life; it has a Divine statement about what God had done with God's relationship with humanity. These two affirmations - the resurrection of Jesus and the change it made on the human-God relationship is where Easter gets, well, weird and downright unbelievable.
Before you send over a lynch mob or psychiatric squad, let me explain. I read a wonderful post by Amy Julia Becker over at "her.meneutics" about the difficulty of explaining Easter to children. As I read it, I thought, "Children? I can't explain it to myself!" I like what Becker says, "One of the reasons I have trouble explaining Easter to my children is that I have trouble explaining it to myself. Even the New Testament writers couldn’t find adequate words or images to explain what happened that weekend in Jerusalem. While the facts remain easy — Jesus died on the cross, and God raised him from the dead — understanding the significance of those facts remains a challenge."
The real truth of this religious event is that we can't explain it at all. We can proclaim truths we believe - but Easter is a mystery and mysteries can't be explained very well. Mysteries are the shadows and wisps of our faith. They are iconic and archetypal. Mystery comes into our lives when our reality falls short and we are struggling to communicate and understand things beyond our common reference. Filled with grand images, haunting tragedy and unbelievable beauty, mysteries inspire and taunt us. In the art of storytelling, these are the stories that weave contradictions and have unexpected turns. In the wonder of religion, these are the moments when we stand on the edge of what we can understand and gaze out into the abyss and try and glimpse God. Easter is the realm of mystery.
I was mowing the lawn this weekend. Pushing an old mower up the backyard hill, lost in the noise and smell of the gasoline engine grinding grass and kicking dust. As I slowed my walk to turn the mower, a dragonfly flew in front of my face and hovered. I'm not sure how I knew to do this, but I let the stop on the mower go and as the engine jerked to silence, I lifted my hand toward the insect. It landed on the top of my hand and rested. I could then see it had caught a small worm. I watched as the dragonfly ate the worm, taking in the life and nourishment it provided. I was amazed at the smoothness of that moment, the way I was allowed to witness a microcosm of life, death, life - resting on my hand. He finished his meal and flew off. I resumed mowing and feeling, strangely enough, graced by what I had witnessed. How many people can say they have had a dragonfly use their hand for a dinner table? How strange that into the loud and coarse environment of mowing the lawn, a delicate life had come to be seen?
Mystery is fragile - like the Easter egg and the dragonfly- and we do well to hold it gently and take what it offers.
At its best, our religion calls us to stretch our minds and spirits, to look and see and grow belief based on solid thinking and delicate mystery. Easter seems to challenge our norms and reality a bit more than other days. Perhaps one of the reasons church is so well attended on Easter is that many of us know this on some level. Perhaps in our return to the cross and tomb we are hoping for a gentle surprise, a delicate encounter with the truth about life, death and life.
He is risen. He is risen indeed.