Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Reflections

Spring has sprung . . . backwards

Tomato seedlings
Note:Words that have a different colour or are underlined are hyperlinks; they lead to a reference or to supporting information on the web. Just click on the hyperlink.

Good Friday. The name may seem puzzling; it’s a commemoration of an execution, after all. Holy Friday, Great Friday, Black Friday, are other names for the day, but Good is common in our day and likely comes from the archaic sense of the word when it still connoted Holiness. (The etymology of good bye is roughly: God be wi’ yeGod by ye / Good bye).
                Here at Academy Bed & Breakfast, we’re hosting guests visiting families in Rosthern, we’re blanketed under a cover of fresh snow (with more to come) and the temperatures are 10 – 15 degrees below normal. There may be goodness in this prolonging of winter; I fail to feel it at present.
                Good Friday worship services have taken place in the Christian Church worldwide. I attended the ecumenical one in Rosthern. It was done in the form of a typical funeral: a participant read the eulogy, Mary Magdalene presented a tribute to the deceased as did the Apostle Peter. Primarily, God Friday services remind Christians of the sacrifice that was made when Jesus gave up his life as an offering for our redemption. Not everyone will comprehend that, logically, (including me) but the transaction that is variously called “being born again,” “conversion,” “accepting Jesus Christ as your Personal Saviour and Lord,” relies on the adoption of a belief that Christ grants eternal life to all who put their faith in the validity of this Black Friday sacrifice.
                There are protesters that say, roughly, that a God that is placated by human sacrifice doesn’t correspond to a creator of a universe and living things that he loves; it’s too bloody and violent to be credited. We must be misunderstanding—they may say—what is meant when we describe the transaction of redemption in this way.
Some explain the crucifixion more politically: a leader of a subversive Jewish group was executed by Roman authority. Leaders of rebellions have always been targets of official wrath (See "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth," by Reza Aslan). Still others think of it as a welcome Friday holiday, a good time to watch NHL playoffs and sitcoms on TV.
There’s plenty of ambivalence to go ‘round . . .
Easter Sunday
. . . as there is surrounding the entire Easter cycle in the church calendar.
“The modern English term Easter, cognate with modern German Ostern, developed from the Old English word Ēastre or Ēostre. This is generally held to have originally referred to the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess, Ēostre, a form of the widely attested Indo-European dawn goddess.” (Click here for more.)
Orthodoxy has always insisted that contrary to our experience, a body that’s been dead for three days can recover physically, miraculously, and that that must be believed as fact, otherwise the gospel message is null and void. (I’ve been astounded at the lengths to which commentators on—and researchers of—the resurrection have been willing to go to prove or disprove the authenticity of the miraculous resurrection; see a typical website on the subject of the Shroud of Turin, for instance.) Liberal theology is more likely to accept a metaphoric resurrection, i.e. the ignition of a fire that spreads throughout the world and is evident today in the extraordinary impact Christ’s followers, equipped with his spirit and fervour, have had and are continuing to have.
By this reasoning, though, Genghis Khan, Winston Churchill and, yes, Elvis Presley are capable of “resurrection” and of lingering on as presences in the world, a thesis that’s not impossible to defend.
The metaphoric conception of the resurrection, of course, has to assume that early gospel writers stretched the truth, or else wrote in a code that they understood . . . but that we tend to confuse with historical accounting.
This kind of speculation, of course, plays havoc with those whose faith is founded on the hope of their own resurrection and that mystical transaction that makes eternal life possible, and makes belief the key. It also messes with our delight in Easter bunnies, Easter bonnets, Easter eggs and the euphoria surrounding the message and the music associated with both spring and hope arriving simultaneously (the former not to be the case this year, apparently).
No matter how one understands the Easter sequence, it seems to me the message in it must be remarkably similar in import. In a world of pain, suffering and hopelessness, there was one who saw in every human a child of God and found the strength to sacrifice himself to relieve the lostness he saw around him. To the hungry, he gave food; to the sick, healing; to still others, like Nicodemus, a vision for rebirth into a better reality; and to all, he offered hope.
No matter how the story of Easter is interpreted, unless it creates in us fervour for the core message it will remain meaningless and Easter bunnies, Easter eggs, and NHL playoffs will have to do, especially when spring seems a distant dream.

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