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On Faith: Why Easter matters

This past Sunday, we celebrated Easter, the most significant and joyful festival within the Christian church year. Easter is unique from Christmas, in that it is less "cluttered up" with cultural associations and celebrations; apart from Easter baskets and ham dinners, Easter primarily retains its sacred flavor. And yet our understanding of Easter, often shaped by childhood excitement over Easter basket candy and happy family gatherings, must grow up with the rest of us. If we are to fully embrace the message of Easter, we need to think seriously about the implications of that empty tomb.

When I was younger, I understood faith primarily in terms of how we live in the present, and there's nothing wrong with that. Living out our faith in lives of praise and service is certainly at the heart of Christian discipleship. But, having lost not only many dear older parishioners, but also beloved family members, I have realized the importance of the empty tomb of Easter in a new way.

Faith has not only a component relating to living in the present; it also points us to the new reality of life beyond death, of resurrected life. This is where the empty tomb makes all the difference. Christ's resurrection points to the reality that good wins over evil, that love wins over hate, that life wins over death. This is the faith of Easter people as we face mortality, our own and others. It is a crucial element of our belief, and one that may become more important as we age and deal with death more often.

The significance of Easter may be something that becomes more clear and powerful to us over time. In fact, one seminary professor famously said, "I don't believe we should even discuss the resurrection with anyone under the age of 25," which may sound strange, but does recognize the truth that death and resurrection tend to figure more largely in our lives as we grow older.

Pastor and theologian Gerhard Frost has written about how his understanding of Easter changed from early childhood to later adulthood. He wrote, "So with Easter. It was fun, as a child, to bound down the stairs to find seasonal sweet-treats under each plate, but again, with the passing of time, and the shadow of death over our broken family circle, I've seen Easter as highest necessity. If hope is to flourish, it had better be true."

Many of us can understand his words about how crucial the resurrection of Christ is. So crucial, in fact, that we approach Easter each year through the solemnity of the Lenten season, the intensity of Holy Week, and the surprise fear and joy of the empty tomb. It's not enough to hear this story once; we need to ponder it, rediscover it, and find ourselves within it year after year after year.

Like much of what we do in the church that involves regular ritual or repetition, it serves to remind us of what we need to be reminded — that Christ is raised. That love wins. So much around us would say otherwise, that this annual festival of Easter is of great significance for the health of our souls.

Therefore, let me take this opportunity to encourage us all to continue to immerse ourselves in the good news of Easter, even as our celebration of Easter Day is now behind us. The Easter season continues for 50 days, and every Sunday is a kind of celebration of the resurrection. Easter changes everything, but if it is to change us, we need to embrace the story as being a part of our story.

On Faith is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders.