Easter is so central, we celebrate it as a festival unending for eight Sundays. From Easter (April 21) to Pentecost (June 9), we revel in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And yet, on every one of these eight Sundays, scripture will talk about death. That surprised me. Does this surprise you?
Maybe it’s obvious. Before being resurrected, Christ was crucified. Killed. So of course, death and Easter go together.
But do we live as if they go together?
The world around us wants all life and no death. For one, there’s how we talk about death. We don’t. When we do, it’s passed away, not dead or died. At funerals, we celebrate life and mourn death. But in planning a funeral no one has ever said to me, “I just really want to mourn dad’s death.”
Easter keeps talking both. It’s like, Ash Wednesday’s shocking honesty—"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”—is repeated each Sunday of Easter. How strange…and liberating!
We are lost if Jesus’ resurrection never meets real death that mocks us, takes our loved ones, and steals our courage. Finding death and Easter together might unsettle us. But exactly there is the promise of a complete upset: the victory of Christ over death, a victory shared with you: Christ the firstborn of the dead.
for you and for the worldThis is the body of Christ given for you and for the world.
This is the blood of Christ shed for you and for the world.
These words say a lot. They’re spoken every Sunday as we receive the bread and wine of communion at St. Paul. Tune into what they mean.
We are bruised and bruising, blessed and beloved. Just be all of the above, free and at peace. Relax into the Potter’s hands. Be realistic about what we can change and realistic what God can change. Clean up your messes; don’t improve yourself. Be converted from me to we.
As you dip the bread into the wine, notice the color: purple. Bruise-purple given for you and for the world. Royal-purple shed for you and for the world.
Purple is a year-round color. A life-long color. The journey of Lent is year-round and life-long too. Receive the daily bread God gives for the journey. See the purple hue in Easter’s resurrection dawn.
“The first conversion is from me to we,” says Franciscan Father Richard Rohr.
So what changes when the pronouns change? Not “I” but “We.” We are bruised and bruising. We are blessed and beloved. For me, we is we Smiths and Olson-Smiths; we white men; we Iowans; we Christians; we humans. What do you notice as you make the same move?
Our faith is warped by a fixation on individual sin and individual salvation. Over and over in the bible, God chose one to speak to all or chose the part for the sake of the whole. Collective sin. Collective salvation. That’s God’s focus.
The prophet Isaiah confessed, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips!” What if this was our confession?
“I am a person of unclean lips, living among a nation of unclean lips!” I am not alone or unique in my sin. Mine is part of a larger pattern. I cannot be saved by myself. My salvation is bound together with the salvation of the whole.
What does this collective confession change for you?
Pastor Clark Olson-Smith