The Pastor's Pen
All of us have experienced one or more singular events that have shaped us, colored our lives, and carved the contours of our personality. It might have been our third-grade teacher and the day long-division finally came into focus. Perhaps it was a family vacation to Yosemite when you first caught an inkling of God’s creative genius. If you are married, it might be your wedding day or the time and place you got engaged. Whatever it was, in some sense it defined us and continues to define us.
As Christians, Easter should be one of those singular events. Long after the chocolate Easter eggs have been eaten and the finery folded away for another year. After the lilies have faded and the plants tossed or perhaps planted against the hope of another blossom and another season; Easter remains. At least it should remain with us and in us. Call it, “Easter presence.” Jesus spoke of this presence in his last words in Matthew’s gospel: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Mt 28.20).
“Easter presence” was, of course, the name given to Joseph for the son of his betrothed – Immanuel, God-with-us. “Easter presence” continues every week as we assemble according to Jesus’ promise in Matthew chapter 18, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them,” (20). While the Easter season lasts for fifty days, until the Festival of Pentecost, yet we celebrate every Sunday as a “little Easter” even during the penitential seasons of Advent and especially of Lent.
But, “Easter presence,” is not just in our gathering; it is also included in our parting, our going out of the sanctuary and into the world. Consider John chapter 12, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him,” (26). Jesus goes with us as we go out to serve our neighbor and our neighborhood in the multitude of vocations he has given to us. As his servants, Jesus is there with us and our work in the community becomes little bits of “Easter presence” shared in service and in word.
As we go, we can take heart from an episode in Paul’s life. Just after he arrived in Corinth, he faced some stiff opposition in the synagogue, so he shook out his garments and went to preach Christ to the Gentiles, they needed “Easter presence” as well. Jesus visited him in a dream saying, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people,” (9-10). He has many in our community who are his people.
“Easter presence” continues to define us far from Jerusalem and Golgotha and the empty tomb. Jesus and the promise of Easter shaped us and continues to shape us until that day when we will see him face to face. Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Amen.