So…what did you get in your Easter basket? I know that baskets of candy
are for children, but I just had to ask. If you did not get one today, you
probably have fond memories from years past. Traditions do vary from house to
house. I always remember that I would get a basket of candy, and the freedom to
eat it whenever I wanted. As for my children, their baskets have always
involved some kind of prize. In fact, we used to take a trip every year after
Easter, and somehow their baskets always included a movie to watch!
We all have our wishes for birthdays and magic baskets and other
celebrations – some more realistic than others. Every holiday basket includes the
age old question of whether we are celebrating for the right reason or not? In
fact, just as I was wondering about some Easter equivalent to, “Keep Christ in
Christmas!” I saw a post on social media that said, “the cross and the empty
tomb as the only real symbols for Easter.” Not quite as catchy, but effective.
It made me stop and think. Yes, I guess we do get a little carried away
with eggs and bunnies, but maybe there is another symbol that should matter to
us – the banquet. It’s true. The Prophet Isaiah called out before there were
bunnies and eggs – and even before the cross and the empty tomb – to invite us
to a feast.
OK, so he probably did not have us in mind. In fact, he was talking
about the people of Israel and Juda who had been taken captive in Babylon.
These words of excess in generosity were told as stories: around the camp fire
to young men who were becoming impatient with the oppression they were born
into, they were whispered by mothers trying to sooth and lull hungry children
They were told to the aged who would not live to see their people
restored. They were told between adults who needed something greater to hope
for in order to make it through the day. “Oh, the food will be so very rich,”
they said, “and the wine will be so strong! And tears will be no more, and even
death won’t matter to us at all.”
This was how they answered the questions of an enslaved and oppressed people
– with hope. It makes me wonder how we answer those questions today. When our
children ask us why we can’t seem to do something about violence against the innocent
– whether in schools or against those profiled by color – do we offer an Easter
vision of hope or do we accept the violence as unavoidable?
When they ask about the role of lobbyists, do we say that they are just
part of the basket – like licorice jelly beans? When our parents or loved ones
talk about rising medical costs and equal access to care and treatment, do we
resign ourselves to Easter baskets that just don’t always have enough?
What do we do when we hear of the rising rates of student debt or the
lack of jobs for skilled labor or the lack of hours for the unskilled single
mom, or the immigrant family that is employed but isn’t allowed to stay and
contribute to the banquet from which we all eat?
Now, I know that some of you are probably thinking, “How did he go from
Easter to all that political stuff. He’s pretty much called out everything but
loving people in the LGBTQ+ crowd.” Yup. That’s true. There’s a rainbow in our
basket as well.
My point is not to prescribe an answer for any of the above. My point is
to say that our vision for the banquet has to include some sense of hope for
God’s resolution of all these things – not just in some far-off vision quest—
but in the lives that we live together today.
For the good news of the empty cross and the empty tomb is that our sins
are blotted out. By that, I do not just mean the actions and behaviors that
separate us individually from God. I mean the reality of sin that keeps us from
seeing God in one another. I mean the sin that keeps us from proclaiming the
gospel which we have received, on which we stand, and by which we are being
I just love that verse. It reminds me that we have received this good
news together. It reminds me that this good news gives us the ground to stand
on together when all else is lost. It also reminds me that our experience here
on earth is one of “being saved”. There’s an ongoing process of “being saved”
that ebbs and flows throughout our lives. That means there is someone doing the
saving, and that someone is none other than the one who created the universe
out of love and curiosity and wonder.
The author of life is so much more than we can conceive. God came to us
through the person, the work, the teaching, and the self-offering, redemptive,
and restorative love of Jesus. Even that is sometimes too much for us to get.
God comes to us through those that follow Jesus in community together.
Sure, there are times when being off in creation reconnects us to the
Creator, but it is in the messiness of our lives together that we come face to
face with our own need for redemption.
So, it was, even on the first Easter, when three women woke up with
the sun to go and offer care for the body of Jesus – whom they saw die on the
cross— and in their way they wondered who will roll away the stone? or as
Rev. Eric Fistler
suggests, “Who will open the door to our memories?”
You see, the word for
“stone” has its roots in the idea of memory. It’s where we get the idea of a
memorial from. So often we set up memorials in our culture. We memorialize
events and people through plaques and statues, and that’s a good thing to do.
Yet there are times that
we set up our memorials in ways that also limit our ability to move forward.
For the women, this memorial was an unmovable thing, and yet it became the
thing that reminds us today of the power and abundance of God’s love.
Not only that, it serves
to remind them, and us, of the promises that he made before his death. But, more
than that, it stands as a challenge for us to remember that the empty tomb is
not an end. It is a new challenge with renewed hope that demands our response.
For these women it was
overwhelming. They had come to fulfill the religious duty of embalming a body
and instead they were confronted with a new story to tell. A new story that
changed their understanding of the world. We know that the story did not end with their
Even though this story was shared for generations before it was amended,
we know that the story ends this way as a challenge to the way in which we tell
our story. It ends this way because we are left with the task of deciding
whether we are going to let our baskets be filled with religious obligation or
What have we to proclaim? He is risen! He is risen indeed. So what? So,
death and sin do not have the final word! OK, now what? Now we have to find a
way to respond that respects life and calls everyone to the banquet. However,
in the mean time we have this foretaste, this morsel, this celebratory feast
that needs nothing more than a nibble and a sip to let us know that redemption
has come- and even more- is coming!
Yes, my friends, we are being saved – even here and even now. The only
question is, how will we respond? My hope is that we will continue proclaiming
the good news that Jesus saves us from sin and death and the separation from
one another that steals our own humanity. My expectation is that we will
continue to work out our experience of redemption in the messiness of living
For there is this great banquet that has been spread before us. It is a
banquet of grace and mercy that commands our response – of which there is only
one – and that is to love as we have been loved. That’s a gift that is better
than any basket, or rich food, or fine wine, or even – dare I say it –
chocolate. And thanks be to God for that, now and always, Amen.