Sunday, April 11, 2004
I'm really thankful that I have Sundays off nowadays. It's my first Sunday back here in Japan, I'm glad I didn't have to spend it working overtime or running more last minute errands. I suppose my personal goal for this Easter was to just take time out and reflect.
Easter is a special holiday for me, both in my life as person and as a Christian. I was baptized during Easter service in 1997, and my father's death was shortly before Easter in late March. The two events may seem completely unrelated, but they aren't.
The happy and sad times that make up the whole of human existence, AKA life, have often been compared to the seasons which cycle everywhere all over the Earth in the natural world - spring, summer, autumn, winter. It's no coincidence that Christians have chosen to celebrate Easter in the spring, a season where people celebrate life. Nothing is more pivotal to the Christian faith than the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The entire whole of Christianity hinges on the events now depicted in the film, The Passion, yet I wonder how often Christians are mindful that our life springs from death and that the cross so many of us wear around our necks was originally a symbol of a horrible, slow death before Christ's sacrifice.
Can you imagine people wear gold or platinum necklaces of electric chairs around their necks? Of course not.
BTW, West Coast rappers from Death Row Records don't count.
I woke up this morning early (7:50 is early for me) to get dressed, throw some gear in a backpack, and wait for a phonecall from Shiv. My math-challenged brain had calculated this time by the fact that the church I would be going to, Hiyodoridai Kobe Kyokai , would start services around 10:15... factor in about 15 minute walk to the train station (I wanted to strooooooooll), a 45 minute train ride, a 10 minute walk and stop to an ATM, a 25 minute bus ride, and another 15 minute walk to the church from the bus stop (another lil stroll).
I arrived right on time. How un-Chinese of me.
One of my English students wisely asked me on Saturday night, "If Easter is such an important holiday to Christian people, why is it not as popular as Christmas? Why do people not take several days off for holiday or go to church?" It took a small bit of thinking on my part, but a little bit of reflection on both my own experiences and Western culture led me easily to an answer...
The celebration of Christmas and the birth of Christ is happy occasion, because a gift is an easy thing to accept. It takes a miniscule amount of effort to accept a gift that has been given to you. You stretch out your hand, grab it, rip off the wrapping paper, and *bam*... there it is. It's yours.
Christmas is a cute baby, starry nights, shepards & wisemen visiting, and angels singing. Easter, however, is different.
Easter is an innocent being named Jesus, 100% man and 100% God, being beaten with rods, whipped like a criminal, and blooding dripping from his body as he has to haul the very instrument of his demise to a place with an upbeat name... "SKULL".
Easter is blackened sky, shaking ground, rumbling thunder, and ripped curtains.
Easter is angry mobs, an indifferent, oppressive government, and sneering upper class haters, privileged by virtue of collaboration with their occupiers.
Easter is a father opening the floodgates of his wrath at everything that is wrong, all upon his only child, and angels weeping as they turn their faces from anguished pleas of a child fated from birth to death.
I'm probably embellishing things a little bit, but the point is this: Easter forces humanity to acknowledge some uncomfortable spiritual realities: that we human beings, at our core, are corrupt, and that our redemption comes at heavy, heavy price - the death of the most innocent, most holy, most compassionate, and most guiltless man to ever set foot on the Earth.
When we are forced to contemplate such an event, we feel both the weight of our own unrighteousness, and we feel the gravity of the love of the God who created us. Our contemplation forces us to a very uncomfortable decision: we must either reject the sacrifice of this man or we must reject ourselves
Uncomfortable = unpopular holiday.
How can we as people begin to fathom such an event and its ramifications? In a modern world, so restless and without peace, can the death and resurrection of Jesus empower people to have hope?
All these thoughts swirled around in my head as walked into the church in Hiyodoridai. I sat down inside the church, just in time to hear the first song being sung. Of course, it's in Japanese, but I recognize the tune...
Because He lives... I can face tomorrow.
Easter. It really is a special holiday.
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