Ready for resurrection
Every Easter, I carefully place a bowl of pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs) on my table as a colourful and meaningful centrepiece. The eggs are hand-decorated treasures of times spent with my aunt. During Lent, we sat at her dining room table, melting beeswax over candles, careful not to burn ourselves. We meticulously drew designs on the smooth white surfaces and spoke quietly of family and faith.
This year, those eggs – traditional Ukrainian Easter decorations – will take on new significance, as the people of Ukraine are embroiled in devastating military conflict with Russia. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, especially since the ancestors of many in our denomination lived there for generations.
The eggs also signify something much greater and more enduring. They are compact reminders of Christian hope. With their hollow shells and vivid exteriors, pysanky are symbols of the empty tomb on Easter morning. Christ is risen!
With the resurrection comes the incredible promise of new life. We cry out for new life in Ukraine. We cry out for new life in Canada. We cry out for new life for us all.
Everything rides on this
The resurrection is central to all we believe. In 1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith…. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”
Theologian N.T. Wright explains that Jesus’ resurrection caused early Christians “to reorder their lives, their narratives, their symbols and their praxis accordingly.” It changed who they were, what they did and how they lived. Jesus’ death and resurrection are beyond doubt the most important events in Christian tradition.
Why is the resurrection so significant? The resurrection signals God’s approval of Christ’s sacrificial self-offering for others at the crucifixion (Acts 2); it marks the launch of the new humanity (Romans 5); it indicates deliverance from sin’s bondage (Romans 8), incorporation within the body of Christ (Colossians 3) and empowerment for a life of discipleship (Romans 6, 12; 2 Corinthians 5; Ephesians 2).
Our hope in the Lord as Saviour, Redeemer, Reconciler, Victor and Healer hangs on the truth of the resurrection.
The resurrection also tells us that Jesus is the great Renovator. (Don’t we all love a good renovation project, when a room takes on completely new character after being outfitted with new tiles, hardware and paint?) The fact that Jesus can take death and turn it on its head – renovating something once dark and dismal – and turn it into life is beyond comprehension for most of us. But it is the very hope we confess every Easter.
And it’s the same hope that fuels our belief in personal transformation. If Jesus can prove victorious over our ultimate enemy – death – he can certainly be victorious over the sin in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:57).
But is this story too strange for us to truly embrace? Is the truth of the resurrection simply too incredible to believe?
Our brothers and sisters from the Global South seem far more attentive to the resurrection than North Americans. Perhaps it’s due to their socio-economic realities – with poverty, disease and violence part of everyday life – or perhaps it’s because of their familiarity with supernatural intervention. Either way, sisters and brothers from the Global South seem less troubled by the details of Jesus walking away from the tomb on Easter morning eagerly showing the marks of his crucifixion to the disciples (John 20:27).
One Colombian pastor who has seen amazing transformation in Venezuelan Mennonite churches, attributes the change directly to the resurrection: “Resurrection power is manifested when it seems all is lost…. God raises the dead to vindicate them in ways that are unexpected and incomprehensible from a human perspective.”
We in the West are often too analytical and calculating, with a preference for scientific research, well-ordered thought and rational explanations. We’re also more accustomed to living without want or fear.
Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente says it this way: “We attenuated Christians prefer our faith bland and anemic. Many parts of our tradition are quite moving (the carols, the baby in the manger, the shepherds who watch their flocks by night), but other parts are too bizarre for our taste (the casting out of devils, the crucifixion and that whole deal with the empty tomb and the resurrection).”
This year, are we willing to take a fresh look at the resurrection? Are we willing to face the beautiful and amazing story once again? Are we willing to open our lives to its transformative power?
Are we willing to admit that just like beeswax and dye can change an ordinary egg into something exquisite, the
resurrection can truly change our lives?