In many countries of the world, the Christian community celebrates Easter in the shadow of violence and oppression directed against them. In other parts of the world, the Christian community celebrates Easter in the face of random violence like the action of the co-pilot of Germanwings flight 4U 9525, random violence that threatens a society at large without a specific target.
In the face of the tyranny of death which marks much of the world today, Easter is both celebration and protest. It is a celebration that in Christ’s death and resurrection not only does Christ arise from the grave in life, but so do we. And we celebrate! We celebrate that God “has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14). Easter is the threshold event that bursts open the door to life where peace and justice, love and compassion reign. And we celebrate!
Until the fullness of that life is attained, Easter is also protest. As we celebrate the empty tomb and the impotence of death, we protest death’s rebellious grip on the world. We protest innocent lives claimed by suicide bombers and suicidal pilots. We protest the degradation of women abused and children neglected. We protest the terror of armed might and ethnic cleansing. We protest the mass incarceration of young men of color and the mass killings in our malls and our schools. We protest the despoiling of the earth and the disregard for life.
The celebration of Easter is an act of defiance by the church in the name of God who brought forth his Son Jesus from the dead and offers life to all. The celebration of Easter is an act of defiance by the church in the name of God who declares through the prophet Isaiah:
“the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.”
Every time we break the bread and lift the cup, we participate in defiant divine street theater of protest against Death’s reign. Every time we proclaim “broken for you; poured out for you” we testify for the public square that death is not the final word. Love is. God’s redemptive love. And we celebrate, for in Christ’s resurrection this promise is fulfilled.
Rejoice, for the reign of Christ has begun! He is risen. Alleluia!
-Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA