Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
March 20, 2016
Embrace more than the shallow frills of Easter
Though Easter is a Christian holy day it has been embarrassingly commercialized. The observance of Easter is rife with pagan concepts. And while Easter Sunday is celebrated by millions of Christians across the world, the word “Easter” is not in the Bible.
The word is derived from the name of an ancient pagan goddess of spring. And for people who are not followers of Christ, “Easter” is merely an adjective describing things that have nothing to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We speak, for example, of Easter shoes. Growing up, my siblings and I sometimes got a new pair of shoes to wear on Easter Sunday. It was a family custom made possible by our friends Sears & Roebuck. If the farming had been good the year before, Mama might get a new hat and the children a new outfit. But shoes and clothes have nothing to do with the true meaning of Easter.
Rabbits are an appendage to Easter. As Easter nears the stores are full of bunny rabbits of all sizes. Huge bunnies attract customers. Children pester their parents to buy them a live rabbit but settle for a chocolate bunny. As a young boy I raised rabbits. A pair soon became a dozen. But I soon tired of caring for the rabbits so we enjoyed fried rabbit for supper.
This secularization of Easter is so extensive that we have Easter eggs,
Easter baskets, Easter lilies and Easter sales. Many churches sponsor Easter egg hunts for the children though often no mention is made of the resurrection. Easter eggs are pretty. Children have fun hunting them. The key is fun.
Though an egg hunt may be fun, for large churches it can be a big production. One church “hides” three thousand Easter eggs annually. One tired but loyal volunteer remarked, “Two hundred of those eggs will never be found by the children; we will uncover them weeks later while tending to the lawn.” This raises the question as to how much of this Easter madness the church should baptize.
Florists love Easter. They sell thousands of Easter lilies. Some churches make a profit adorning the chancel area with lilies. Buy them for five dollars apiece, sell them for ten and clear five dollars for a missionary project.
Easter lilies have sentimental value for me. When I was born in the spring, my dad picked some wild Easter lilies in the woods behind our house. He put them in a Mason jar beside my crib. Wild lilies still grow behind the old home place.
Easter occurs in the spring because the death and resurrection of Jesus happened in springtime, at the time of the annual Jewish Passover. So we associate Easter with the budding of flowers, the new life of nature.
Spring is a delightful season. Winter is past and the earth is bursting with the beauty of green leaves, spring flowers and budding trees. New life is everywhere as what appeared dead comes suddenly to life. But what happened to Jesus on Easter morning was much more than the changing cycles of nature.
His resurrection was not like the spring birth of flowers. His resurrection was qualitatively different. Flowers born in spring will die. Next spring new flowers may come from the seed or bulbs that have lain dormant in winter. But as much as we delight in the beauty of spring, this process of nature is not what the Bible means by the resurrection of the dead.
The dead body of Jesus did not "sprout" buds from which a new person grew. God infused life into his dead body and he was physically alive again. God transformed his old body into a new glorified body. The tomb was not opened so Jesus could get out; it was opened so the women and the disciples could see that the tomb was empty. The Risen Christ had conquered death! The grave could not hold him!
flowers and colorful butterflies are wonderful gifts of God. We can enjoy their
beauty and embrace them as expressions of God's love. We can enjoy a chocolate
bunny. The kids can hunt eggs. Buy the children some new shoes – if they need
them. But do all this without including these Easter parasites in
the same breath with the resurrection of Jesus. Butterflies and bunny rabbits
cannot save us from our sins!
Cynics say that the grave is the end. Beyond the death of the human body, there is nothing more, only dust. The resurrection of Jesus was God's answer to hopeless cynicism. It was God’s way of saying, "Don't be afraid. There is more! So much more that you can hardly imagine the wonderful eternal life I have planned for you - if you will trust my Son for salvation!"
Enjoy the wonders of bulbs, seeds and cocoons. Celebrate the coming of spring. But remember that the resurrection of Jesus has done something for you that bunnies and butterflies can never do. His resurrection has opened the gates of heaven and offers you blessed hope that you will see your loved ones again.
This is the faith God’s people enjoy when the true meaning of the resurrection is divested of all the sweet pagan embroidery. That is why our churches are crowded on Easter Sunday. People are looking for hope! They are looking for a family that will love them and give them reason to believe there is life beyond the grave. Let us welcome them with love and invite them to embrace with us the good news that Easter is God’s gift of hope. + + +