April 1, 2018

An Easter Message from the Dean

It is a joyful thing to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, but Easter does not exist as an isolated day. The Gospel accounts of the events between Palm Sunday and Easter (i.e., Holy Week) are inextricably bound to one another and must be read and understood as a seamless narrative. Holy Week without Easter ends in tragedy and death. Easter without Holy Week becomes a fairy tale. Taken together as a totality, the account becomes the story of our redemption, calling us to look honestly at issues of our past, challenges of our present and hopes for our future.

Looking to the past may be an adventure of nostalgia for some. For others, looking to the past may be a painful journey into old hurts, fears, difficulties. Looking to the past as a place to dwell in safety from the rigors of the present will end either in cynicism or unreality. This was the stance of the Chief Priests and religious leaders in Jerusalem during the events of what we now call Holy Week. True, we carry the past with us always. Choosing to live there, casting a blind eye to the present and its challenges may be tempting, but is ultimately a dead-end choice.

Looking only to the future may be a hopeful enterprise, tempting us to use hope for the future as an escape hatch from the realities of the present: Bad as the present is, things can only get better, right? To be a potent force in life, hope must be rooted in reality. Some of Jesus’s followers fervently hoped that he would be the spark for a revolt against Roman oppression. The revolt came 70 years after Jesus was crucified, and it failed.

When taken as a whole the focus of Holy Week/Easter is not on past or future. The power of the narrative of Holy Week/Easter lies in taking the present seriously. Jesus went to his death rooted in the story and traditions of Judaism. He rose from death to give the shape of hope to the future. But his words and actions were rooted firmly and powerfully in dealing with the present. Jesus lived fully, completely, energetically in the present as the Gospels so amply demonstrate.

Now you and I can flee to the happy or painful past, or lose ourselves in contemplation of the blessed relief of the future. Hiding in the past or disappearing into contemplating the future are only attempts to escape the present moment of the responsibilities and duties of our life, or to flee from the mission and ministry that Jesus’s resurrection calls us to in the present.

Holy Week/Easter tells us that it maybe the past cannot be changed, but it can be redeemed. Holy Week/Easter claims a future for each of us anchored by the promise of Jesus’s resurrection; and that promise is that Jesus’s story will become our story. Holy Week/Easter tells us that it is the present moment to which we are called to act and live.

There is much to do in our Easter present anchored by the resurrection. Christians are called to feed the hungry, resist the human urge toward violence and challenge the twisted mechanisms that keep hunger and violence and war alive. Followers of Jesus are called to confront racism, sexism, oppression and prejudice through our vocation as reconcilers, peacemakers, and those committed to protecting the dignity of every human being. Jesus’s resurrection calls us not to escape from the present, but to active participation in it.

On this Easter Day, let us rejoice and be glad. Let us go forth, renewed and energized by the promise of Jesus’s resurrection. Let us give thanks for the past and strengthen our hope in the future Jesus has prepared for all whom God loves. Above all, let us ever more confidently serve others in the present.