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March 23, 2013

The true meaning of the story of Easter

The Rev. Mark Michael and the Rev. John P. Rosson
The Daily Star

---- — The weather for Easter 2013 promises to cooperate in helping us to ponder the real mystery of Easter more deeply.

Easter is not about fuzzy bunnies, bonnets, colored eggs or budding azalea bushes. Easter is not a way to mark the return of warmth and light after a long winter.

Easter is the foundation rock of all that is Christian — the Gospel, the Church, the Sacraments, the Scriptures.

If there had not been Easter, the Church would never have been born. For if all we have is a dead Jesus and not a living Christ, what worth is any of this? Thus Paul cries to the Corinthians: “If Christ has not been raised up, then we are the most pitiful of all.”

In Christian sanctuaries this morning, many will see a new tall Paschal candle with the number 2013. The tall Candle is a symbol of the Risen One, who stands at the center of our common life, shining with light and power into all we do. The Christian community was, and is, the community of those who remember Jesus and who tell and re-tell His story, which is also our story.

Kenneth Phifer has written: “In essence, this is what Christianity is. If we whittle away long enough, it is a story that we come to at last. And if we take the fanciest and metaphysical kind of theologian or preacher and keep on asking him long enough — why is this so? Alright, but why is this so ? Yes, but how do we know that it is so? Even he is forced finally to take off his spectacles and push his books off to one side and say ‘once upon a time there was ...” And then everybody leans forward a little and starts to listen. That listening takes place again this Easter Sunday.

It was this story, proclaimed by ordinary men and women, that turned the world upside down. They knew the Easter was true because they had met Jesus alive again. They ate with Him, heard Him speak words of forgiveness. They received His blessing and saw their own fears and doubts transformed into vibrant faith and courageous love. Christianity rests on a story, but one that intersects deeply with the stories of his disciples, who find Him in living power day by day. They meet Jesus still today, hear His words of hope, and find within themselves new reserves of compassion and joy as their lives are touched by His grace.

The eyes of many in the world this Easter will be fixed on the new pope, Francis, undoubtedly the most influential Christian leader in the world today. The new Pontiff faces many challenges in his new role, difficult decisions about discipline, organization and strategy for the church in a troubled time.

But first and most importantly, Pope Francis this Easter will be blessed to tell the world this story again, the story of Jesus risen in power, which is also his own story. As the successor of Peter, first among the apostles to proclaim the Easter Gospel, the new Bishop of Rome will invite us to hear the Easter message anew, and to give it room to change our hearts.

The Easter story changes things, it changes people forever. Hear it in faith, and you too will find the living Jesus and His transforming work. There is no need to return to the same old grudges, the same resentments, the same old fears, the same old prejudices, the same old destructive habits of life and thought, the same old empty and meaningless routines — not if Easter is true and Jesus is risen!

This article was co-authored by two pastors from different branches of the Christian tree, symbolizing the Empty Tomb is the foundation rock of all Christian belief.

The Rev. Mark Michael is rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Cooperstown, and the Rev. John P. Rosson is pastor of St. Mary’s Our Lady of the Lake Roman Catholic Church in Cooperstown.