…but Sunday is a comin’. I am grateful for both. Deep down in my gut kind of grateful.
In one week’s time my friends and I, we’ll be celebrating. Rejoicing over the single most profound event in all of history. Pondering the most baffling truth in all the world. As if taking on tiny baby flesh wasn’t enough… now the exalted King of all things has traded places with me and made it right again. He’s taken all the broken places and made them whole again. He has gathered up all the shards – the shattered relationships, the selfish acts, the greedy thoughts; He’s swept them up and fashioned them into something more beautiful than the original sculpture. All at His own expense.
How is this not the best news ever heard? How is it that most of us would rather talk about bunnies and pastel eggs and new bonnets? Can’t we just talk about something sweet? Maybe tulips or lilies? Anything to distract us from having to really focus on the shock of what Jesus has done.
Why? Why do we push it away? Why do we let other things overshadow this profound truth? Don’t we want the broken places fixed?
I think I finally understand it. I think we DO want them fixed. At least many of us do. We know something is wrong. We see the shattered mess of the world. And we really want it fixed.
We just want to do it ourselves.
And there’s the rub. Easter Sunday is only truly a celebration if we are convinced we’d be hopeless and desperate without it.
John Stott captured it well in this short piece entitled Naked Pride:
“As we stand before the cross, we begin to gain a clear view both of God and of ourselves, especially in relation to each other. Instead of inflicting upon us the judgment we deserved, God in Christ endured it in our place… This is the ‘scandal,’ the stumbling-block, of the cross. For our proud hearts rebel against it. We cannot bear to acknowledge either the seriousness of our sin and the guilt or our utter indebtedness to the cross. Surely, we say, there must be something we can do, or at least contribute, in order to make amends?”
Yes, isn’t there something? Maybe I can be a little nicer to my annoying neighbor. Or go to church a bit more. Oh, and, I’ll totally stop cussing when the kids are around. Yes, I can pull this thing together if I just work a little harder. Put my nose to the grindstone and all of that. Come to think of it, what’s the big deal about Easter anyway? Oh yes, another religious holiday. Sure, I’ll go pay my dues. If God is lucky, I’ll even throw a little something in the plate as it goes by. Better yet, I’ll contribute to one of those clean water well projects in Africa. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. If we all just did something like that, this world would be a better place.
Ah… but Stott cuts across such platitudes, “The proud human heart is there revealed. We insist on paying for what we have done. We cannot stand the humiliation of acknowledging our bankruptcy and allowing somebody else to pay for us. The notion that this somebody should be God Himself is just too much to take. We would rather perish than repent, rather lose ourselves than humble ourselves…
“But we cannot escape the embarrassment of standing stark naked before God. It is no use our trying to cover up like Adam and Eve in the garden. Our attempts at self-justification are as ineffectual as their fig-leaves. We have to acknowledge our nakedness, see the Divine Substitute wearing our filthy rags instead of us, allow Him to clothe us with His own righteousness.”
And it is right there. In that naked place of realization. There that Easter Sunday becomes the grandest celebration. The best news we’ve ever heard.
May your preparation this week be blessed. Both as you ponder your own nakedness and as you embrace the beautiful garment offered to clothe you.
Grace and peace,
Dear Kiddos of Mine,
I see you there as we open the eggs and recount The Story. I hear you as you expound on the details.
You know so much of it already. About the donkey and how Jesus came humble even though He could have come conquering. About the Passover and His last supper with His friends. About Judas’ 30 pieces of silver and Jesus’ agonizing prayer in the garden. About the middle of the night trials and the trumped up charges against an innocent man. And the mocking and the beatings He endured. You even know how many lashes it will take to kill a man and how Jesus took just one less.
You tell of how they crucified Him and how He died there, forsaken and alone. About how the sky got dark and the curtain tore. How they pierced His side to make sure He was dead. You know all about the borrowed tomb and the stone rolled in front of it.
And the last egg is empty. You know why, don’t you? Yes. Of course. You can tell us and you do. It’s empty because the tomb is empty. He is risen.
You know these historical events inside and out. And I love that. I have no regrets about teaching it to you from your earliest days. About reading to you from the Bible before you could even sit up. What mother would withhold her most precious possession from her own children? My greatest treasure I pass on to you.
But, there are these three things I pray as yet another Easter passes. The lamb has been eaten save a few leftovers. The Easter finery needs laundered. The tulips are wilting. Your baskets are a little less weighty. *smile* And it’s time for me to put away the eggs.
As I do, I ask God for three things…
- I pray that it will always be a story like no other. It’s not a myth or an interesting piece of literature. To be shelved with all the other fantastical tales every told. It’s not even like anything in any of the other world religions. I know it sounds crazy at times. Really. God taking on flesh, coming as a baby, living just 33 years and being brutally executed to pay the penalty for our sin. And then rising from the dead? It’s nuts. I get that. But it’s true.
- I pray that you’ll never lose the wonder of it. They say that familiarity breeds contempt. I think there can be some truth to that. Sometimes we know something so well that we’re no longer shocked by it. Or we forget to see it with fresh eyes and enjoy its beauty. I pray that the Gospel will never seem “ho hum.” But that it will always stir wonder and awe in your hearts. Even though you’ve been hearing about Jesus since you were babes.
- And lastly, I pray that it won’t just be a holiday that you celebrate once a year. Be transformed, Caleb & Madison. By Him. Let Jesus’ sacrifice and victory change the way you think and act. Everyday. We don’t celebrate Easter because our religion dictates it. We’re really not that into religion. We celebrate Easter because it reminds us of the greatest day in history. We celebrate Easter because Jesus’ death and resurrection changed EVERYTHING.
I’ll be honest, kiddos. This Easter was a little different for me than any other. You’re getting older and I watch you taking it in. Contemplating the whole thing. In ways you didn’t before. With some hints of greater maturity and thoughtfulness. And I know that you’ll have to make your own decision about Easter someday. As you grow, you’ll either accept it or reject it. Accept Him or reject Him.
I just want you know that I see you. And that I’m praying for you…
We worship Sundays in a converted carpet warehouse. Our pastor preaches most weeks in jeans. We’ve never even owned hymnals or had a formal pulpit. Our services are very simple with very little ritual… save the benediction at the end. We hold loosely to our “traditions” because we don’t want to elevate one way of doing something and get stuck in rut.
I’m not necessarily saying that’s better. It’s just what I know. (And, clearly, what I like.)
As a result, I know very little about the “church calendar” and some of the tradition that it highlights. I’ve never had the ash smudge on my forehead. Or abstained from meat on Fridays. Or given up something for Lent.
In fact, for most of my life, my view of those ideas was fairly jaded. Perhaps it was my experience with so many people who had ashes on their forehead one Wednesday every year but virtually ignored Jesus the other 364 days.
Or perhaps it was my misunderstandings of the traditions. Honestly, giving up diet Coke for 40 days seemed silly to me in light of the extreme and weighty sacrifice that Jesus made on my behalf. We Americans indulge ourselves in excess nearly everyday. Most of us know very little of true sacrifice and service. Many of the people I knew who gave up something for Lent gorged on their now-forbidden treat right before and after their 40 days. How could that in any way help us appreciate the anguish and sacrifice of the God of heaven and earth dying on a cross to pay for the awful sins of every person who has ever lived? Did we think we were impressing Jesus or somehow identifying with Him by depriving ourselves of chocolate for a month and a half?
Most of my experience with such rituals was little more than pomp and circumstance. But, in recent years, I have come to appreciate some of the heart behind some of those traditions.
One thing I have come to value is the way such times help us to remember. We are forgetful creatures. So forgetful. So quickly. God knows that about us. He’s the one who instituted communion as a way of remembering. We do need reminded. Regularly.
I think such traditions can also help us to slow down and reflect. Otherwise, it’s just too easy to get swept into our cultural definitions of a holiday. We get mired in the commercial messages that pound away at our soul. Suddenly it’s April and Easter is about finding the right dress and eating jelly beans and designing the perfect centerpiece for ANOTHER big meal.
And, honestly, that’s OK for Target or Macy’s or whomever. Really. I don’t expect them to make Easter about the sacrificial death and amazing resurrection of my Lord. That’s what we who follow Him need to do. We need to make it about Him… in our homes and in our own hearts.
If slowing down for 40 days of fasting and reflecting before we celebrate Resurrection Sunday will help you to do that, then by all means, please do.
As for this non-denominational girl, my observation of Lent will mostly be in intentional reflecting. I have some books that I will use to help me focus. I have some ideas rolling around in my head that might work for the whole family. If I feel prompted, I might fast in some way during this time. It’s all still a bit of a work in progress for me. (As usual, I’m a little behind schedule. You know, since it starts today and all!)
One thing I do know. I know I want to be a woman who regularly reflects and revels in the Cross and what it means for me. Dorothy Sayers writes that to make the Easter story into something that neither startles, shocks, terrifies, nor excites is “to crucify the Son of God afresh.”
I want to be startled.
How about you?