EASTER PLUS . . .
When we read the story of the Resurrection of Our Lord, especially from John’s Gospel, there is no mention of Lilies, chocolate bunnies, colored eggs or families gathered around the table for a festive ham dinner. So how did these customs and many others like them become associated with Easter?
Let’s begin with the word itself, ‘Easter’. This is not a biblical word. It doesn’t appear anywhere in the New Testament. However it is a term that has been used by Christians since before the 7th Century. There is a monk, known as Venerable Bede, who claimed the word ‘Easter’ relates to the month Ēostre (April). Originally April was named for a goddess by the name of Ēostre in whose honor festivals were celebrated. The uniqueness of this goddess is that she died every fall and came to life every spring. It is easy to see why the association with Easter would be made.
However it may be more appropriate for us to take the biblical connection of Easter to the Passover as our guide.
Passover is the annual Jewish celebration of the Exodus. It commemorates the rescue of the Israelites after 400 years of slavery in Egypt. The Bible tells us that Jesus, his disciples and the early Christians celebrated Passover (the day of unleavened bread) regularly. In fact, it was in the midst of the annual Passover Meal that Jesus took the unleavened bread and declared it to be his body; and the cup of wine he declared to be his blood.
We can see many instances in our own lives when we have experienced a kind of death and resurrection. We can understand Jesus’ illustration of the seed going down into the soil as if it has died only to see it push through the soil in Springtime and become a blossom of new life. Can you think of a time when you had to let something or someone go – only to experience a new thing emerging or a new person coming into your life? There’s a popular expression that when God closes one window, another one opens. This is an inspiring Easter image that we can carry with us throughout the year.
Finally, Easter is the celebration of that moment in history when Jesus rose once for the benefit of all. In other words we Christians believe that as Jesus passed from death into life that we, on account of Jesus’ passage, will also pass over from our earthly life to eternity.
Enjoy the lilies, the chocolate bunnies, colored eggs, and the family gatherings at Eastertide. At the same time we can affirm and give thanks for the Passover of Jesus – the journey from death to life. The Resurrection has always been the central theme of the church’s proclamation. Easter today means that no matter what we may have done, God stands ready to forgive us and to receive us into God’s loving embrace. May Easter bring this great truth to you and to your family.
Have a Blessed Easter Celebration!
Christ is Risen, Alleluia! Christ is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!
+Pastor Paul Koch
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sheraden, 3102 Sherwood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15204 412-331-0600