I regularly drive past a costume shop on Forest Park. It’s fun to watch the seasons change, evidenced by the curbside marquis. Easter is almost here. This morning the sign read, “Rabbit and Roman Costumes Available Now.”
Maybe it’s because I’m a staid, boring, Presbyterian minister, but I have never – no, not once, never, ever – been invited to a springtime costume party to which I would arrive as a Roman. Or a rabbit. Can you imagine? The first would be religiously awkward (playing the part of an invading oppressor, at Easter time? Really?). As for dressing the part of a rabbit, well – hide this email from the children – what do rabbits have to do with Easter anyway?
The Episcopal Church designed a wonderful ad campaign years ago which featured a rabbit and colored eggs. The caption read, “A little fuzzy on the meaning of Easter?”
I loved that campaign, not because I’m a killjoy and like to point my scolding finger at the cultural lace which adorns our religious festivals. Truth told, I love an egg hunt as much as anyone, and as for chocolate bunnies, well, who doesn’t like chocolate bunnies?
Truth told, sometimes the lace obscures the cloth beneath. Easter is about so much more than fertile rabbits and sweet confections. Easter is about life, life abundant, life eternal.
And, most of us have decorated our Easter understandings with a specifically religious lace. We have little trouble believing in life after death. It’s life before death we’re not sure about.
Ask most Christians on the street or at, say, some costume party, what salvation is, and the likeliest answer is that salvation is something that happens to us after we die. Likewise, ask about the Kingdom of Heaven – where it is, when it is – and the answer will come back that God’s Kingdom is somewhere else, waiting for us.
Salvation, the Kingdom of Heaven, is right now, right here. Jesus said even that it is within us. Sure, what awaits us after death is eternal. It is beyond words, magnificent and perfect, flowing from God’s very heart to which we will cling joyfully forever and ever. And also, there are glimpses of it right now, right here, even within us.
Easter, then, isn’t a celebration of something yet to come. Easter is a celebration of something that has already arrived. And it is already changing everything if only we have eyes to see, and ears to hear, and hands to help. That’s what gets us up in the morning, what drags us from the valley to the mountaintop, what fills us with righteous anger at the injustices which linger, what inspires us to faithful effort to please the God who makes all of it possible.
And that is why I can’t wait to see you in worship on Easter morning. As the Kingdom of Heaven is within you, come as you are (though, if I’m being honest, I hope you don’t show up as a Roman or a rabbit). Even if you do, though, you will be welcomed. There is nothing at all fuzzy about God’s embrace in Jesus Christ.