Being an April baby, Easter has occasionally coincided with my birthday. This was delightfully confusing when I was a little girl. Bunny rabbits and fancy dresses, birthday cakes and sunrise services, gardenia corsages and presents. All too much to take in properly when I was really small. I soon learned, however, that, in order of priority, my birthday was quite a ways down the ladder of importance from Easter Sunday.
I suppose I've been pondering the significance of Easter for the whole of my life. It is the crux of the Christian faith, after all. If Jesus didn't really rise from the dead, the whole thing is pretty much rubbish. As a person of faith, I believe that he did, and this tells me death is something that can ultimately be conquered; that we will live again, just as he did. Even though it's far outside my understanding, that's still where I place my hope.
These days, it's hard to find Jesus in religion. When one reads the Beatitudes, the values of Christ stand in razor-sharp contrast
to what we often see represented as American Christianity. Those he called Blessed - the meek, the merciful, the poor in spirit, the peacemakers, those who mourn, those who hunger for righteousness - seem to have been cast aside, mocked and deemed weak, and in their place we find the arrogant, ignorant, and mendacious being praised and exalted as never before. At a time when we so dearly need the comfort of faith, the church can seem like the last place in which it can be found.
But the words of Jesus cannot be drowned out by a louder voice, nor do they fade under a liar's glare. We are seeing them come soaring to life right before our eyes. As he told us in Matthew, "the last shall be first, and the first shall be last". This pandemic is proving that truth in ways we couldn't have imagined. For it is not the celebrated, the over-paid, or the powerful who are holding us together at present. It is the ones so often overlooked, undervalued, and discounted. The grocery worker, the nurse, the sanitation worker, the delivery person, the ambulance driver, the hospital janitor. Those whom many in this country would deem unworthy for a paltry increase in the minimum wage, the ones who don't deserve health care, education, or an affordable place to live, the ones who have to fight for their right to vote are, we see now, worth just as much, or more, than any corporate head. Today, without them, our country would collapse. It is divine truth, uncovered, and set out into the light. The last are first.
This year Easter falls straight down into a grieving, frightened, insecure world. One where we have been forced into silence and solitude. The wonderful writer Arundhati Roy recently called this pandemic "a portal, a gateway between this world and the next". In this time of quiet separation we have the time to ponder what we want to carry with us into this next world. What will we set down? What will we hold tighter? We have a lot of decisions to make.
Perhaps we've all been given a second chance to get it right.
I have to believe that.
After all Easter is synonymous with hope.