What does Easter mean?
It doesn’t mean one thing, first of all, any more than a Mozart concerto means one thing, or an Emily Dickinson poem means one thing, or a perfectly hot cup of soup means one thing. It means many things. And it means more than we can ever say, though that certainly shouldn’t stop us from trying.
There are the lilies and the trumpets, of course. But even they aren’t so simple. If the lilies remind you not only of Easters past but also of funerals, of spring but also of death, that’s about right. Easter is a day of life, but also of death. It’s a day for church, but also and especially a day for the tomb. The empty tomb, of course, but still: the tomb. He is risen, but still: he is wounded. The triumph comes complete with the marks of ruin, the marks of death, the marks of cruelty all around us even now.
And if the trumpets sound heavenly and celebratory, that’s good. They are. But they also echo the trumpet of judgment, of last things, and as such, they should call us to take stock again of our lives, to ask again and afresh if we are living in the light of Easter morning.
In other words, Easter is a start, not a finish. It is a triumphant day – a triumphant fifty days, actually, Easter morning to Pentecost – but only in the sense that in Easter we can catch a glimpse of God’s greater triumph to come. It is a foretaste, a promise, an encouraging word, a sign of what’s ahead. Jesus rising means: he is not dead, he is with us still, and he has triumphed and will triumph with us and in us and for us in the end. His rising is the “first fruits,” the decisive but still only the inaugural sign of the great transformation now underway.
Easter points beyond itself to the end, precisely to provide us strength and hope along the way.
Join us on Wednesday for our second installment of "What does Easter Mean?" And, thanks to Jag for this beautiful angel heralding God's good news!