Thursday Feb 21 2008
Easter an annual journey
By: Bryon Hansen, Bethlehem Lutheran Church
Easter is about a month away. For Christians, Easter is the high point of the year. It is the feast of feasts. One way to understand the importance of Easter, the annual celebration of the Resurrection, is to explore some of what Christians do this time of year. Christian practice at Easter, rooted in ancient traditions, might best be described as a journey. Journeys and pilgrimages are popular activities among people seeking God or wanting to walk alongside God. In fact, Holy Week (the days preceding Easter), was once a popular time for taking pilgrimages to Jerusalem in order to re-trace the events of the final days of Jesus' life. You need not travel far, however, to take the journey of Easter. The community of faith scattered throughout the world walks with Christ as it remembers His passion, death and Resurrection. The journey begins in earnest on the Thursday before Easter Sunday. On this day we remember Jesus' command to his disciples to love one another. The next day, Good Friday we ponder how Jesus himself demonstrated such self-giving love in his death on the cross. On Easter Eve (the Easter Vigil) we take a journey from darkness to light. This is the night when many baptisms take place. It is also the time for the entire Christian community to renew its faith. The next day, Easter Sunday, is a communal burst of joy continuing the celebration begun the previous evening. In this annual journey we are not merely recalling something that happened long ago, but are participating in a present reality. These are days filled with abundant signs and rich symbols. These celebrations are brimming with mystery. Those who participate are plunged, here and now, into the mystery of Jesus' dying and rising and a fresh awareness of God's love. The exciting thing about journeys is that they take us places. Sometimes they take us to places of great surprise. There is usually a danger when we relinquish journeys or feel we have somehow reached our final destination. Then we easily slip into self-righteousness. (A common malady among religious folk!) Journeys require that we pay attention and remain open, not necessarily knowing where we are going, but trusting that God is with us and leading us to new vistas of rebirth. A journey like the one we take around Easter can teach us something about the nature of the Christian life. Perhaps you belong to a church community where you may celebrate the great days of Easter. Maybe you are seeking out a community of faith. If so, Easter, about a month away, might be a good time to observe and participate in a journey from death to life. It could be a good opportunity to experience something of the love of God. Bryon Hansen is the pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church.