Posted by: Philip Rushton | April 21, 2014

Wrestling with the implications of Easter in a broken world.

On Easter Sunday, in the middle of singing triumphant hymns about Christ’s resurrection,  an usher handed me a stack of prayer cards. As I read through these prayer requests with “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” as the backdrop, I experienced a troubling dissonance in my heart.

“Christ the Lord is Risen today, Alleluia!” “Please pray for a 18 month old girl who is struggling to gain weight and breathe properly because of Cystic Fibrosis.”

“Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!” “Rachelle’s friend, Laura, is in her last days. Please pray for her.”

“Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!” “Pray for peace as a loved one comes to the end of her long and hard struggle.”

“Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!” “The Melcher family requests prayer for the Person family, who lost their 2 year old in a tragic accident last Monday.”

It was this card that broke me. Tears began to well up in my eyes. The hope of Easter was interrupted by the pain of life. The juxtaposition between the triumph of resurrection and the reality of fear and grief was hard to reconcile in that moment.

Yet, I wonder if that is actually what Easter is really about. I wonder if the purpose of Easter is to embark on a journey of figuring out how Christ’s resurrection intersects with the real world challenges we are up against.

You see, Easter was never meant to be a momentary celebration or a one-day event. Historically, Easter is a forty-day season similar to Lent called Eastertide. Our spiritual ancestors recognized that Easter needed a whole season. They passed on to us an opportunity to extend Easter so that we might have space to wrestle with the implications of the resurrection.

In many ways this mirrors the first Easter. It is interesting to read what happens after the resurrection story in the various gospels. It took time for the disciples to come to terms with this event. In Matthew 28 we read that many of the disciples still doubted. In John 20, a group of disciples lock themselves in a room out of fear of the Jewish leaders. In John 21 Peter and his friends are floating aimlessly on the Galilean sea trying to catch fish. Apparently they reverted back to the way life was before Jesus came.

All these stories suggest that the Easter story leaves us with some unresolved questions. How does Christ’s resurrection intersect with the grief we feel in a broken world? How does the resurrection speak to our fears about the future? What does the resurrection mean for how we should live our life in the present?

Easter, like most things in the spiritual life, is a process. Perhaps the next 40 days might be an opportunity for you to wrestle with these questions. Perhaps this might be a season where you can create space to consider how life might be different because of what Christ has accomplished.

Anticipating his death and resurrection, Jesus tells his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” This text reminds us that we will continue to face challenges in a post-Easter world. Yet, it also suggests that Christ’s victory over death provides us with the opportunity to face these challenges from a place of hope.

May God meet you this Eastertide as you wrestle with the implications that Christ’s resurrection holds for our broken world.

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Responses

  1. Hi Phil, Taking your new post with me to California to prayerfully wrestle with and pray over. Leaving tomorrow to return on May 19. Will be sorry to miss several important opportunities for ministry. Carol Fuller Date: Mon, 21 Apr 2014 18:48:53 +0000 To: oscarol2@msn.com

  2. Phil, When I read this part “…It was this card that broke me. Tears began to well up in my eyes. The hope of Easter was interrupted by the pain of life.” I thought – I hope you (and the rest of our church) will feel free to cry, weep, lament or express sorrow when the pain of life hits us. We seem to feel the need to always put a positive spin on our prayers…because our God is so great he can overcome our pain. Yet we still need to be honest in sharing our true emotions and doubts.

    I think there are so many people in our church with very compassionate hearts, that if you were to honestly express tears or sorrow, they would join in your pain and be moved to respond in some more significant way. As for me, when I heard you pray for the Person family last Sunday, I kinda said, “Wow that’s too bad!” and then promptly forgot about it. (Were a Community Church pastor to weep – that I would sit up and remember)

    I realize it can be embarrassing to let your emotions out, and we certainly don’t want to do it on cue or for show. But I think the more real we can be sharing our joys and pain, the more Jesus can move amongst our congregation. Stan

  3. extremely moving, help us to work through Eastertide

    • Hey Gil, One resource that might be helpful is the podcast pray-as-you-go.org. They provide a 12 minute guided prayer that you listen to. It includes music, scripture reading, and guided questions for reflection. Right now they are working through the stories that take place after the resurrection.


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