each easter i struggle with feelings that are anything but celebratory. i resent the hymns about victory over death. i dislike the martial strains of these songs, and i want them silenced. i am don't like the brass ensembles and loud organ music. this is not how i, a christian, am supposed to feel about easter, but i do. just two days before easter, jesus suffered an agonizing death and was buried. christians have been observing the season of lent, and its abrupt end on easter is too sudden for me.
in contrast, christians observe the much briefer advent period in preparation for christmas, climaxed by the quiet joy that epitomizes the celebratin of jesus' birth. i want to be able to capture something of the easter joy that was tempered by fear like the early christians. in yesterday's easter service we read matthew's resurrection account. twice we are told that the women who discover jesus' empty tomb are afraid, despite their joy in learning that jesus has risen from the dead. i find nothing like the noisy celebration that we call easter in any of the gospel accounts. instead, i find uncertainty about what has happened, an uneasiness that jesus' body has disappeared from the tomb. i find inconsistency in the accounts, with none of the gospels agreeing about the details of the resurrection. i find a spurious ending to the oldest gospel, that of mark, that may have been added to include sightings of the risen jesus like those found in the other gospels.
never in an easter service or sermon have i heard this ambiguous reaction of the early followers of jesus or the inconsistencies in the gospel accounts addressed. for me, to ignore the uncertainty of jesus' closest followers is dishonest; to fail to acknowledge that the biographers on whose accounts we rely are unclear about the details surrounding the resurrection as we boisterously proclaim the joy christians are supposed to feel leaves a bad taste in my mouth. this is what bother me about the christian observance of easter.
may we admit that many of us do not feel unadulterated joy in our celebration of easter, seeing that even those early followers of jesus were fearful, and may we see the life of jesus in its wholeness, rather than making this one event (about which even the biographers on whose accounts we rely fail to agree) the overshadowing occurrence in his life. may we celebrate this time of reawakening reverently while admitting our uncertainties about its meaning. shalom.