I know I’ve only been a Christian for about a minute, but today I reached an important faith decision. I’m cancelling Easter. Throw as many choccie eggs (fair trade, please) at me as you like, but I’m done.
Before you think the smart-alec pastor (SAP) has fallen down rather horrendously on his job, I do understand Easter has immense significance in the Christian calendar. That’s the problem. I’m beginning to doubt whether I can do Easter, year in, year out, without, well, breaking a few eggs.
It started because I was trying to be a ‘good’ Christian (rather than the less compassionate one who drops F-bombs and has to stop herself from telling people to swallow concrete and harden up).
I had decided to download a Bible study app about Easter. I’d been plagued by a nagging notion to seek stillness, not unlike the days prior to my Lipton-ing and, given it was Easter a year ago that started me off on this Christian journey, I quietly chose to do some gentle honouring of the event.
I do love a good Bible app. It’s like G&J for the time-poor. Not only does it give me the choice of putting the Bible books in alphabetical order for quick-find brilliance (imagine my shame over a backyard lunch one day when a UHT Christian recited all the books in order), it comes with a built-in narrator! The New international Version (NIV) chap sounds a bit like Garrison Keller (his inflection when he says Jesus makes me grin each time) while the bloke who does the King James Version (KJV) sounds like Anthony Hopkins crossed with Richard Burton. Incredibly Shakespearean, darling.
So there I was, driving to my early work appointment, with Garrison Keller narrating the Easter Reading plan. John 13-21, Luke 22-24, Mark 14-16 and Matthew 26-28. Let me tell you, it was awful (not the narrator, the content).
I was fine with Easter before I became a Christian. But now? As I listened, and re-listened to Easter narrative from each gospel, my heart tore. We (humans) beat an innocent man, spat on him, humiliated him, taunted him, gave him an unfair trial and killed him brutally: crucifixion is death by suffocation, loss of body fluids and multiple organ failure. Not only was I in sorrow due to the enormity of what Jesus sacrificed, I was struck afresh by how little humanity has learnt since.
Listening to those 14 chapters in close proximity, the similarities jumped out. I found myself wishing that something would change. That, somehow, there would be a different ending. That Jesus’ prophecy about Peter disowning him three times before morning would alter. That Pilate, asking the crowd did they want Jesus or Barrabus, would throw up his hands in disgust and say, “Don’t you get it yet? The dude who performed all the miracles is the one you want, not the red-neck who started the riot.”
It was like listening to a car-crash. Groundhog Day of the worst order. No matter that I knew it unfolded the way it did to fulfil scriptural prophecies from the Old Testament and the Psalms, from the dividing of Jesus’ clothes to the piercing of his side, to resurrection: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” – I still hoped I would hear a plot change. Some new twist that would redeem humanity’s inhumanity to another.
Worse, when I shared with the SAP about how harrowing I found it, he answered he finds it the same. Still. After all these SAPing years. Which means I’ve got some sorrow-filled Easters ahead of me. So that’s why I want to cancel it. Or at least bury myself behind the cushions until the worst bit is over.
Of course, I know I can’t really. Whilst the Easter narrative leaves me hollow over how flawed humanity is, it does offer the promise of something more joyful. Yet paid for so awfully – “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28) – in such circumstances.
Yet the cliff-hanger of the Easter story is not Jesus. It’s me. And every other flawed, imperfect human and what we might choose to learn from Jesus, his crucifixion and resurrection: “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12)