April 5, 2005

Easter People
by Jan Harris
Christians, by their very nature, are Easter people. We are people whose lives are dependent upon on the sacrifice, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Our faith is celebrated in the great high holy days of Easter, and epitomized in the way we greet each other on Easter morning:

"Christ is risen!"

"He is risen indeed!"

Christians, throughout the ages, and still today, rejoice in Easter as a celebration of life: the coming back to life of the One who said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life."

The Easter season lasts fifty days, till the day of Pentecost -- (literally: count fifty) -- which was a Jewish Holy Day and, since the resurrection of Jesus, has been celebrated by Christians. This is a time when we are reminded, through Scripture readings, songs, homilies, and by each other, of the most important event in our history: the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ.

As Easter people, we are reminded every time we partake of the Supper of the Lamb -- whether we call it the Lord’s Supper, Communion or Eucharist -- of who we are. And who are we? We are the redeemed, the ones who have been saved by the life of another, the people who are "running the race," as Paul says, "for the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus."

And when our race is over, we will join those -- that great cloud of witnesses, the communion of saints -- who are with their Lord in the kingdom of heaven.

I am reminded, as I kneel at the Communion rail, of the invisible crowd in heaven who have gone before me, and who rejoice with all the faithful on earth every time they celebrate the Lord's Supper together.

Frederick Buechner, pondering on those people who meant so much to us, but who have passed on, expresses it this way in Sacred Journey:

How they do live on, those giants of our childhood, and how well they manage to take even death in their stride because although death can put an end to them right enough, it can never put an end to our relationship with them. Wherever or however else they may have come to live since, it is beyond a doubt that they live still in us. Memory is more than looking back to a time that is no longer; it is a looking out into another kind of time altogether where everything that ever was continues not just to be, but to grow and change with the life that is in it still. The people we loved. The people who loved us. The people who, for good or ill, taught us things. Dead and gone they may be, as we come to understand them in new ways, it is as though they come to understand us -- and through them we come to understand ourselves -- in new ways too.1

Buechner raises some very important points in this passage: things for us to reflect on during this season of rejoicing in the resurrected life of Jesus. He reminds us that there is more to life than this physical one that we are living, wonderful as it is. And that we do not know the impact we have on the lives of others, or on the impact those people have on us.

He continues:

Who knows what "the communion of saints" means, but surely it means more than just that we are all haunted by ghosts because they are not ghosts, these people we once knew, not just echoes of voices that have years since ceased to speak, but saints in the sense that through them something of the power and richness of life itself not only touched us once long ago, but continues to touch us. They have their own business to get on with now, I assume -- "increasing in knowledge and love of Thee," says the Book of Common Prayer, and moving "from strength to strength," which sounds like business enough for anybody -- and one imagines all of us on this shore fading for them as they journey ahead toward whatever new shore may await them; but it is as if they carry something of us on their way as we assuredly carry something of them on ours.2

What does all this mean to us? What does it have to do with Easter and the resurrection of Christ? What, especially, does it have to do with our modern, secular, materialistic world, and our everyday lives?

Perhaps it is a call to us to be aware of the preciousness of each human life with whom we come into contact. Jesus, in his earthly life, truly noticed people -- the big and the small, the sinner and the saint. He showed us a way to triumph through humility, to win by losing, to live by dying. And perhaps, as we take up our cross and follow him, our lives as Easter people will carry on what our Lord began so long ago when, for love's sake, death was vanquished by life everlasting.

1. Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), p. 21.
2. Ibid., p. 22.