When it comes to memories, one must be careful not to mix events. It’s a very normal thing for our brains to link similar experiences and in the process “adjust” their time frames. The Apostle John had a very different sense of chronology than did Luke, for example. This is why the Gospel of John reads so differently from the “synoptic” Gospels. The traditional symbol of John is the Eagle because of the way his narrative of Christ soars. In telling his story John cares much more about proclaiming who Christ is than getting his timeline correct— which is why it works so well!
I wasn’t raised in a church-going family. Easter for me was a second Christmas of candy and gifts and tv specials. The difference was only in scale and relatively better weather. When I think back I associate spring and Easter with a special annual presentation of the Wizard of Oz. My strongest, earliest memory of watching the movie was while hiding under the couch, afraid that flying monkeys were going to come and get me. It is hardly a children’s movie--from little people, to rather odd companions, to the wizard, and to witches! At least Toto was reassuringly a dog.
If you look up the history of The Wizard of Oz telecasts, they didn’t start running in March until the late sixties; otherwise they showed in January. If you ask me, I would tell you the movie was the sure sign of Easter baskets soon to follow.
Given my upbringing, I am much more serious about Christmas and Easter. I see them now as religious holidays and I mostly put up with their secular aspects. It may be some sort of compensation for my childhood or the zealousness of a convert. It may be, as I have aged, the importance of the Incarnation. The Cross and the Resurrection are just so much more meaningful than a new bike or an egg salad sandwich made from left over Easter eggs.
From a pastor’s perspective, I find the Lenten season busy but reassuring. Now that daylight savings time comes earlier it is a given that Lent will begin in the dark night of Ash Wednesday and end in a Maundy Thursday service in the warm and gold tones of a setting sun. Holy Week has a brief rest built into its beginning. In some years, we have taken a few days off from Sunday night to Wednesday night. Ironically, those days have often found us dodging midwestern tornados like Dorothy and Toto. My children now associate the movie Twister with “spring break” and the sound of wind chimes with spring storms.
It is certainly quite alright to enjoy the celebrations and the memories that make up the family events in our lives. I can smile at the messes my mother and I made in coloring Easter eggs. At the same time, my dad would insist on spreading layers of newspapers out on a table to keep it from getting stained. The joy of the activity would be robbed at his instruction, “Know how to operate.” It's one of those phrases that stings my ears every time I fail to properly prepare a workspace for a task. It reminds me that I am my father’s son when I bark it at my children for the same thing. My regret is that Easter was not about Jesus.
The problem with not knowing the Gospel is that all instructions seem like law. To be separated from Christ is to know a conditional or limited love based on performance. I know that parents would always imagine their love as unconditional, but apart from a knowledge of grace, the lessons being learned will always be lessons in earning love. Parents are always shocked when unconditional love is found in the wrong places, especially when it’s not been taught to be found in the right place—in Jesus.
The person who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, because God is love. God has shown us his love by sending his only Son into the world so that we could have life through him. This is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins. Dear friends, if this is the way God loved us, we must also love each other. No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. (1John 4)
Please enjoy your Easter family traditions and spring breaks as they come. Please enjoy church during the Easter season and the celebration of true hope and true love. The love of Jesus given to you.
Christ is risen.
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!