In your world, Easter may be a time of spring when colorful plastic Easter eggs, egg- and bunny- shaped chocolate and candy take up at least one aisle of your grocery store.
Easter may be a welcome extended weekend in some parts of the world, where Good Friday and/or Holy Monday are given off.
Easter may be a distant memory of a family dressing up in new clothes, maybe a pretty hat, shiny new shoes, or little white gloves, and going to church. It may have been families gathered for a traditional meal. The Easter Bunny who brought baskets; Easter Egg hunts; candy; and real fluffy bunnies and baby chicks.
Some of us wonder why this holiday seems to pick random dates– one year falling in the still chilly and mercurial month of March; other years well into April and the true bloom of spring. In 325 AD the Council of Nicaea (a group of early Christian leaders) established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox (aka, the first day of Spring). Therefore, if the full moon occurs on March 22, the next Sunday will be Easter. There’s also something to do with Gregorian and Julian Calendars, as I know our Greek Orthodox friends tend to celebrate at least a week later. This all is keyed off of the Jewish celebration of Passover, since Jesus was a Jew, and celebrated Passover with his friends the day before he was killed (crucified).
For Christians, Easter is the “Super Bowl” of Christianity. It is the reason for our faith and beliefs. In a sentence, we believe that God sent his Son, Jesus, to live in the flesh among men, and to die in atonement for the sins of the world, and then rise from death on the Third Day, or Easter Sunday. It can be a tricky theology to wrap one’s head around at first blush, but it’s what ultimately assures every Christian of their hope in God, salvation, and eternal life with God in paradise. It’s a faith that also reassures us that God knows we will sin, he can forgive us, we are redeemable, and help us find a better way in life.
There are wonderful Christians. There are horrible Christians. Replace the word “Christians” and fill in any other denomination or sect in the world. Easier still, just fill in the word “Humans.”
Perhaps the last time you walked into a church, possibly as a “Chreaster” (that would be those who attend church on Christmas and Easter), you recalled some very bad memories of unpleasant people in the church. Someone who offended you. Someone who didn’t seem to live a Christian life. Some who seemed judgmental or pushy or preachy. Some who are hypocrites.
What? Hypocrites in the church? Yup. Lots of them. And lots and lots of sinners. NO perfect people, no matter what they themselves believe!
And, if you are truly honest with yourself, you will acknowledge that you live and work among lots of hypocrites. Our world is full of fallen people. Sure, you may be able to pick and choose whether to spend time around some people, so therefore if you’ve encountered the expected hypocrite in a church you may have just chosen not to ever go there again. I can’t say I blame you.
What the Church is NOT supposed to be is a place for perfect people, nor hypocrites. It’s supposed to be a place where people at all stages in their journey should be welcome to come and learn, pray, fellowship, and worship together, and learn about new beginnings, and a better life. A church also cannot give a spiritual IQ or aptitude test to everyone who walks in the door. Every church has their share of overly-righteous and judgmental people (which makes most Christians very sad). We don’t always really like them and at times we want to kick them out because they make a bad name for Christians. But we instead are taught that despite sin and offense, we are to try to love each other, and pray for each other. Sometimes it’s not easy, trust me.
God has given me so many opportunities to start over and have New Beginnings and miracles in my life. I’ve also had dark valleys and difficulties, pain, sorrow and regret–just like any human. I’ll continue to have challenges, and I’ll continue to have joys. I’ve had doubts and sometimes wondered if my faith could be tested beyond its limits.
God restored my marriage and gave me a second chance with my husband, he took away my heart of stone and gave me a new one. He gave me hope for a future together better than I could ever have imagined.
Given the choice of trying to face this world all by myself, or with God, I’ve never regretted choosing God in the pilot seat (even if I at times tried to kick him out!)! Because I’ve stayed close to other Christian believers in fellowship, and to Godly teachings, I’ve seen examples, I’ve seen God at work in my life and in lives around me, and I can believe in miracles and in love. Along the way and with lots of practice, reading, studying, and lessons, I’ve learned to become more fluent in “Christ-talk” and able to comprehend (and hopefully live it in action) better. I can believe there are good people (angels at times) put into my path by God. Many of these angels, miracles, and love have been because I choose to remain a part of the church. I’ve been in good and bad churches, and I have found myself frustrated at times by the human institution. However I know in the end, I’ve come away spiritually fed and uplifted, even if all I’ve done is make a difference for someone else. One of the marks of a faithful church is its work in ministry and outreach, actively helping others.
Faith is not believing in my own unshakable belief. Faith is believing an unshakable God when everything in me trembles and quakes. Beth Moore.
Perhaps you’ll decide to walk through the door of that church down the street from you tomorrow for the first time– either ever, or in a long time. And perhaps you’ll not like what you see or hear or experience. Or maybe you’ll be surprised. My prayer is that God can show you something in his house that actually comes from him and blesses you… Maybe giving you a New Beginning.
At this time of Easter, I wish for all of you renewal and New Beginnings, miracles and joys.