Easter was a beautiful sunny day this year and the joy of the resurrection was evidenced by a new lightness of heart. One might visualize toddlers experiencing their first Easter egg hunt, green grass, kids outside laughing, and Sunday dinners with ham and all the trimmings.
Or you may have had a video chat with grandma in the nursing home, texts from nieces and nephews, worship with beautiful and comforting old hymns. You may have simply had the opportunity for sacred reflection and prayer.
Four days after Easter I want to feel the glow of Easter Day but instead I look outside and see the aftermath of a long hard winter in North Dakota this year. It started in October, before Halloween, and at Easter time we still had 3-4 feet of snow in some places. There is half of a huge old oak tree lying on the ground in the snow. Add to that broken trees all over the yard, having been weighed down by the wind and the heavy wet snow. In the front yard, a Christmas angel blows her trumpet that Jesus has risen. There, birds and squirrels are looking for homes that no longer exist, and bunnies are searching for food underneath the snow as they wonder if they missed their cue that it was time for their Easter appearance.
As I survey the wondrous Cross within the context of what seems like a season gone wrong, I think about the usual scene painted by the scripture readings we often choose this time of the church year. Could it be that we are jumping from the joy of the resurrection immediately to the joy of Jesus' later appearance to the disciples without stopping to consider the emotional shambles that the people of Jerusalem and surrounding areas may very well have been left in? Consider that some people of the time, regardless of national or religious identity, knew that Jesus had done no wrong. They had stayed in hiding during the entire capture of Jesus and ensuing events for fear of being arrested themselves. Others likely didn't hear about the arrest and the crucifixion of Jesus and when they found out, regretted not being able hold the church leaders at bay. Some groups may very well have been angry at Jesus and His disciples, for they had put all their hopes on Jesus as an earthly king, come to rescue them from oppression. After all, how could the disciples let their Messiah get captured? Still others got caught up in crowd frenzy and shouted, "Crucify Him," only to realize too late that Jesus had been set up and so had they. Some people were deeply shaken and heartbroken that their Lord had had been taken from them. And some people had turned the other way during the events of Holy Week.
The emotional aftermath of our Easter is often not too different. We let church organizations sometimes sculpt the truth into something that betrays the truth of Jesus. We stand by while shootings and bombings continue to take place in churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples as we decry the deeds only to then turn on the television and watch the next violent drama fed to us by Hollywood. We debate whether people are following our specific dogma instead of working together with people of all races and religions to feed the starving, cure the sick and provide a place for the homeless to rest. We pray for Jesus to be the giver of an earthly kingdom of success in our lives, for health and personal rewards, instead of looking to Him for spiritual transformation.
Easter requires us to stop and assess. God sends Jesus to freely offer us redemption. He makes yet another invitation to accept the grace and love which we can receive into our hearts and souls, if only we will look away from the devastation around us and look to Him for forgiveness for our intentions gone wrong. He offers love freely, yet he expects us not to judge others with the light of this love, but to share this love with all. As you navigate through the aftermath of Easter, look to Jesus and back at Holy Week to move you forward to a holy response instead of passive acceptance of the Easter story. Jesus is alive and waits for you to come alive, through Him!