Boy am I tired. My father’s surgery went well and I was home in time to catch Striker’s soccer game this evening. They’re 11-0 now, thank you very much.
…one of the main things I want to say this morning is that we as Christians must learn how to celebrate Easter properly. We in the West aren’t good at this. I was talking to somebody over coffee who had been, for several years, living in Greece, and we were agreeing that the Eastern Orthodox do their Easter celebrations much better than we do in the West. We know how to do Lent, the forty days of fasting. Many in my denomination are taking Ash Wednesday more seriously; we’ve got purple banners and goodness knows what. And we have Lent courses for this and that; it’s a serious time and we take it seriously. Then we get to Palm Sunday, and we do the whole thing with donkeys and processions and palm crosses and so on. Then we go through Holy Week with special services. We sing the great Bach Passions, some of the finest music ever written. And we come to the Great Three Days and we do Passover meals and other Maundy Thursday activities. Then we have more processions on Good Friday, carrying the cross and following the cross and preaching the cross, and even in some traditions, kissing the cross.
Let me say, we do well to do all this. To follow Jesus through those final days of his public career, to ponder the way of sorrow and suffering, his sad journey into the “far country.” You can’t miss all that out and hope to understand and believe and know the love of Christ which passes knowledge. The way of the cross is the only way to go.
But my friends, we are Easter people! We stand on resurrection ground. Easter is not only our greatest party (much greater by the way than Christmas—whatever you do on Christmas you ought to do ten times as much at Easter); Easter is the only reason we are here at all! St. Paul says in 1Corinthians, “If Christ is not raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” Without Easter, Jesus of Nazareth would be a curious historical footnote. Without Easter, the world would still be divided into waiting Jews and puzzled pagans.
So why, when we get to Easter Day, do we not celebrate wildly, lavishly, gloriously, at great length, and with studied disregard for normal propriety?
I don’t know how you do it here, but in my tradition today, alas, after forty days of Lenten fasts, and three days of deep and serious concentration on the meaning of the cross, we have precisely one morning of Easter festivities. And then people disappear, exhausted by the rigors of Holy Week, the clergy go on holiday, and the only celebration that is left is eating up the remains of the chocolate Easter eggs!
No, we should make Easter a forty-day celebration. If Lent is that long, Easter should be at least that long, all the way to Ascension. We should meet regularly for Easter parties. We should drink champagne at breakfast. We should renew baptismal vows with splashing water all over the place. And we should sing and dance and blow trumpets and put out banners in the streets. And we should invite the homeless people to parties and we should go around town doing random acts of generosity and celebration. We should be doing things which would make our sober and serious neighbors say, “What is the meaning of this outrageous party?”
The entire sermon (Resurrection and the Calling of the Christian) is available as an MP3 file here.