Empty Eggs

Easter PonderingsDeath is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

When I was a kid all of us cousins would hunt Easter Eggs at our grandparents’ on Easter day. It was what made Easter Easter. As we got older the hunting got more challenging and our parents got more creative. But the end game was always the same. Candy!

A few weeks ago Kara, my children’s ministry colleague, and I were sorting Easter eggs for the Easter Egg Hunt at the church. A number of people came through and assumed that were in the process of filling the eggs with candy. We, however, were not. The eggs were going to be hidden empty. The reason was practical. The empty eggs would then be traded in for a scoop or two of candy. We get the eggs back, and there is some candy-control.

But when tasked with doing an Easter theme for preschool chapel, my senior pastor and I used an empty Easter egg. In fact, we got a lot of traffic out of that empty Easter egg. We used it in a lot of places. When I used it for the children’s moment for Easter Sunday, I asked the children why did they think the egg was empty? One little four-year-old girl leaned in towards me, and loudly, but proudly, declared with great enthusiasm, “Because Jesus lives!”

It was, to say the least, a proud pastor moment.

These chapel/children’s moments with the empty Easter egg inspired this craft in one of the Peakland Preschool classrooms:

photo by Mollie Ledford (Peakland Preschool)
photo by Mollie Ledford (Peakland Preschool)

The empty Easter egg reminds us of the empty tomb. Though we don’t wear the empty tomb around our necks or on our lapels like we do the cross, the empty tomb says with all the mightiest of God that victory has been won. Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us quite humbly, “It is not we who are victorious, but Jesus.”

This is why we sing old hymns like “Victory in Jesus,” because we acknowledge that Jesus has conquered death and lives! This past Sunday during my sermon, I asked the congregation to pay close attention and every time I would say, “He is Risen!” they would respond, “He is Risen Indeed!” It is an ancient practice of the church to acknowledge that the sting of death has no power over us. The sting of death – the wages of sin – are no longer capable of holding us captive. Jesus’ victory has rendered them powerless. Bonhoeffer puts it this way:

They are powerless; they still rage, like a mean dog on a chain, but they can do nothing against us, for Jesus holds them fast. He remains the victor.

And yet, we find ourselves living as if nothing has happened. We live as if grace is a license to sin. We take Jesus’ victory over death for granted. Instead of acknowledging the power of the empty tomb, we submit to fear and death. Maybe because it is easier. Maybe because the world’s voices are louder than the stillness of the empty tomb. Maybe because . . . . . you know we could do this all day. We could think of a billion reasons why we fail to acknowledge the power of the empty tomb.

But when we come to this table:

communion

we accept the power of the empty tomb; we accept the victory over sin and death. And it is for you and me, whoever we are and whatever we have done. That’s how much God loves us. And so every time we come to this Table and break the bread and drink the wine, we remember the victory that has already been won, and all we have to say is:

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Easter Feet

Easter Ponderings“But, go, tell his disciples, and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:7)

A few weeks ago my friend Jennifer posted on Facebook a quote from her daughter. The three year old had placed two Easter eggs on her feet and declared, “Look, Mommy! I have Easter feet!”

So adorable and innocent. And theological.

Mary Magdalene and the other women at the tomb, in Mark’s Gospel, are commissioned to go and tell the others that the Christ is Risen, Risen Indeed! The command to go and tell is not unlike other times in the Gospels when the followers of Christ are told to go and tell. After Jesus had healed lepers in Luke 7, he tells the followers to go and tell John the Baptist about the things they had seen. Mark and Matthew record Jesus telling the disciples and go and tell (preach) the good news.

Go and tell.

That is what it means to have Easter Feet. To walk or run with our Easter Feet is to go and tell. Mary and the other women were a sent people with a mission.

We, too, are people who are sent. We are sent out beyond the boundaries of our church walls to share the gospel message – a message filled with love, grace, and hope. The church is an important and vital place for the believer. Christians gather together at the church on Sundays and throughout the week for worship, studying the scriptures, prayer, and participation in the sacraments. Then, followers of Christ are sent to feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, to love others as Christ has loved them.

We gather with other people of faith to engage in works of piety so that we can be sent to engage in works of mercy.

We are sent out on our Easter Feet.

The mission of the sent is to continue the work of making God and God’s ways known to the world. In this sense, the world needs the Church. It is through the Church that the world responds to Christ in faith and accepts the grace that has been given to the world. All of this is made possible by and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

But, there are days when it is not easy to walk on Easter Feet. There are days when it would be so easy to act like all those other people who are rude and just plain mean. We are assaulted by this meanness at work, at school, in our communities and yes, even in our churches.

Recently, a minister in town attended a children’s ministry event at our church. He took issue with the children’s moment that we had, where we shared the Easter story. About 80% of the children were not part of our church, and were 3 and 4-year-olds. The children’s moment presented the story using language that was age appropriate and focused on the meaning of Easter – a risen Jesus!

This visiting pastor, who was present with his children, took to Facebook to share three or four theological points that he considered were left out of this outreach event. He did not come to talk to any of the clergy. He did not write an email. He did not place a phone call. He took to Facebook and shared very publicly that our church was leaving out the truth of the Gospel. Some members who knew him took him to task for his actions. He later edited his Facebook post deleting the rude statement and replacing it with scripture. The meaning, however, was the same.

There are times when people will assault us with meanness and they think they are doing the right thing. They think they are being faithful to their God. They use their Bibles, quoting scripture to put others down.

Friends, this is not what it means to stand on Easter Feet. 

We can stand on Easter Feet and be in dialogue with those that we disagree with. We can stand on Easter Feet and walk in grace, showing the grace that Christ extended to us to others. We can stand on Easter Feet and use the word of God to build up instead of tear down.

Jesus did not say, “Go and tell others all the ways in which they are wrong.” Jesus said, “Go and tell that I have risen!”

How are you walking on Easter Feet?

 

It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown (1974)

Easter BeagleThe 12th animated television special, It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, first aired on April 9, 1974 on CBS.  In this special, Charlie Brown and the gang are preparing for Easter. Peppermint Patty is teaching Marcie how to dye Easter Eggs. Poor Marcie can’t figure how to prepare the eggs to be dyed though. Sally wants new shoes for Easter Sunday. Lucy is preoccupied with getting gifts and hiding eggs.

And, then there is Linus. Linus tells them they are worried too much. None of that stuff matters, because the Easter Beagle is going to bring them Easter eggs. The Easter Beagle is right up there with the Great Pumpkin. The other children try their best to ignore or tolerant Linus’ belief in the Easter Beagle.

Like the Christmas special before it, the Easter special has a message against commercialism. As the children walk into the department store to get their Easter supplies, the store is decorated with Christmas trees and other Christmas items. Banners hang declaring how many days are left before Christmas. Sally cries out, “It’s Easter! And they have Christmas decorations out!?!”

The point is clear. Like Christmas, Easter is not about buying, buying, buying. Easter is about so much more than that. It is about the One who gave life so that we may have new life.

There has been some criticism that this special did have the religious message like its Christmas counter part. If by religious message they are referring to Linus reading from the Bible, than no, there is none of that in this one.

But there are allusions to the Gospel.

In the opening scene as Lucy listens to Schroeder play his toy piano, she talks about Easter being a time of getting gifts. Schroeder corrects her, “It’s a time of renewal,” and later, “All you think about is gimme, gimme, gimme, get, get, get.”

When the kids get to Easter Sunday, they are all sitting around waiting for something special to happen. Peppermint Patty says to Marcie, “You look forward to feeling real happy and something happens to spoil it.” Can you think of better words to describe what those who witnessed the crucifixion must have felt?

Sally is wondering where the Easter Beagle (Christ?) is. Charlie Brown expresses feelings of being alone. Sally tells Linus that he has made a fool out of her. Everyone seems to be sad or confused. Not unlike those who experienced the first Easter morning. But then in the distance a figure emerges. It is the Easter Beagle (of course, it is just Snoopy.) Snoopy dances around giving out Easter eggs that he picked up after Lucy hid them (Lucy: “He gave me my own egg!”).

Ten weeks later, the Easter experience is still hanging around. Lucy is still upset at Snoopy for pretending to be the Easter Beagle and for handing out the eggs that she hid. She goes to Snoopy with the intent of fighting him. Snoopy leans in and kisses her. She responses, “Awww, the Easter Beagle.” Even Lucy came around.

PeanutsEaster02There may not have been any quoting of scripture, but there are things held in common between the first Easter and this Charlie Brown Easter. The feelings of loneliness, of being scared, confused, and uncertain all must have been feelings that the disciples and others experienced. The surprise and awe that followed when Jesus appeared. There were those like Lucy who did not believe until they experienced the grace-filled love of Christ themselves.

Lent reminds us of the tension between looking forward to being happy and the reality of loneliness and despair. The promise of Easter is the gift of resurrection; new life; renewal. In the midst of the darkness of loneliness and despair, joy comes in the morning.