An Easter Message
I’m writing this just in case you somehow miss attending church this Easter. Sometimes we have to miss and sometimes we choose not to be bothered. For years I served faithfully in the church choir and on a team of ‘praise’ singers, so I knew when the throngs of people that otherwise were too busy to attend all year would show up and fill church’s pews. In the past I purposely missed attending on Easter when I could to avoid the crowds and supposedly to provide space for the mobs of annual visitors. It wasn’t that I didn’t need the sermon or be reminded of the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, because I still needed to hear those words of encouragement. I have turned in my thinking and now feel I want to celebrate the good news and share in that with my fellow man. I want to acknowledge the risen Savior.
The first time I remember hearing about Easter, it was more about a fictional Easter Bunny bringing kids baskets full of Easter joy and the a new Easter outfit worthy of joining the others at Sunday school and Church. It was a fun time of waking to an Easter basket full of hollow chocolate bunnies, candy eggs, jellybeans, resting on green cellophane grass. Mom and I had already colored eggs that were for adults to hide so when church was over we could go into our search mode and to fill the baskets.
In the days leading up to Easter mom would have us take boiled eggs and decorate them by dipping them into little cups of a vinegar solution, each in a different color. We had a little twisted wire holder we would set the egg into so we didn’t get the color on our hands. Waxed crayons were used to draw or write on the egg shells so when the egg was dipped the color would not stick to the designs drawn. We sometimes wrote our names and then would take care to later assign them by the named parties to eat. Often they were tossed because of condition. They were subject to cracking so that the colorful shells would literally fall off. I think mom deviled the eggs once they were washed. I was always a fan of those delightful and tasty treats.
After lunch the grownups would hide Easter eggs all around the yard, usually tucking them into tuffs of grass, inserting them into bushes, behind flower pots, and inside drain pipes. Once hidden, the kids would take emptied Easter baskets and gather all the eggs they could find. I remember cold or rainy Easters when parents hid the eggs inside the house. They would push them into cushions, behind pillows, on the window sills behind curtains, or even under jackets or afghans. A few times we’d find eggs days or weeks after they had been missed during the ‘hunt.’
Like every other kid I knew, mom would dress me up for church in new, stiff and very uncomfortable leather shoes, a well-pressed pair of dress slacks, a white dress shirt and tie, and a sports coat. One year I even had a three piece suit with a vest! My cousin Julia, would be dressed up in her pretty, pastel or flowery new dress, little hat with a netted veil, white gloves, and patent leather shoes. She would wear a corsage ordered from the flower shop. She would also carry a white purse and a small leather New Testament.
As I mentioned, church was always packed with the people I normally expected to see, but there were also great crowds of others. Everyone had their ‘Sunday best’ and the kids would absolutely sparkle having been scrubbed down and with fresh haircuts and perms. The women and girls wore corsages, often an orchid tied with pastel ribbons. Some of the new people were visiting relatives from out of town, but many were folk about town that were making their annual, or semi-annual pilgrimage because of the holiday. Later, after church, we’d go home and being ordered to change clothing before we could join others in play. We’d also find time to dig into the goodies in the Easter baskets. I remember the warnings not to fill up on candy because dinner was nearly ready.
It was in my early teens when I first had an understanding of the real story of Easter. I was listening to the preacher at the Louisa Methodist Church on Main Cross and Madison. I finally understood the basic message of the gospel. As I grew older I learned more and more about what Easter really means. It was a mystery to me as to why it happened and how mankind could make such a horrible mistake to actually kill an innocent man and that He was creator who laid His life down for me. I think that young people notoriously have a strong sense of justice, or perceived injustices, but they lack some of the foundation to fully comprehend. I often wondered about how the story of Easter could be so simple, yet still so very complex. I looked around and began to see the ‘upside down world’ we live in. The principles of life espoused by man are often the opposite of the biblical teachings of Christ.
By nature, man knows he is fallen and often does things even he knows to be wrong. Man has tried to make amends by performing various kinds of penitence to find absolution. Confessions are made and remedies sought to ‘start over’ in hopes of pleasing a sinless God. Such actions prove a lack of understanding of the purpose of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. Actually, it is an insult to God that says Christ’s death wasn’t enough. After all, if prayer, sacrifice, or punishment would result in forgiveness, then what purpose was the crucifixion? What little could we do than what was done by His voluntary laying down His life? We must realize that there is nothing we can add to be washed clean. He has already fully paid for our sins.
It was done completely and finally by reason of His love for us. There’s nothing we can add. We can crawl on a pilgrimage, cut ourselves and take whippings. We can recite hours of prayers, and we can devote ourselves into religious service, but we simply cannot add to what was already done for us. What we can do is accept that sacrifice, be grateful, and bow our knees in gratitude. We can accept our place as servant and be forever beholding for a gift we don’t deserve and cannot earn.
“By His stripes we are healed.” Is that some strange dogma? No, it is a promise from the one with the power to make it happen. Did we ask for this? No, but it was a gift to us and is our only hope. Yes, He died for our sins, without regard of our weakness, but because there was no other way. It happened because of the grace of God and His mercy to us. Mercy was withheld from the one on the cross, so it might be given to us. That is upside down to man’s way of thinking. We want the guilty to be punished and we want the innocent to go free.
Look at how the world acts all around us. We are a mixed up people. Today, bad is good, or at least in the vernacular. It is the ‘dark side’ that we are drawn to just as a moth is to light. We celebrate Christmas with Santa, and an office Christmas party that often has nothing to do with Christ. For Easter, we hide Easter eggs and pass out candy. Still, He loves us. Nonetheless, He died for us, but wait! There’s more! He rose again! His promise to those who accept His free gift is that we will rise, too. We have His promise that we, too, will rise one day and find ourselves fully cleansed and forgiven. That is real cause to celebrate.
There’s nothing wrong with Easter baskets, candy eggs, jellybeans, and chocolate rabbits, nor in hiding, or rolling Easter eggs about the lawn, but that’s not all Easter is really about. Like spring after a cold winter, the flower of redemption has risen and done it with us in mind. He is risen. He is risen, indeed!