This year, Easter came hard on the heels of March break. During the school holiday, everyone relaxed; and, when school and activities began again, it took a few days, as always, for the grinding wheels of purpose to turn, and then to roll. Then, just as these wheels were finally chugging along, they had to stop again for a four-day weekend. This was not a logical time for another holiday. It unravelled our schedule. But that’s the Easter Reality.
The Easter Reality has a way of breaking free of any attempt we may make at categorizing and organizing our lives and our world into something that is convenient to us. It all began in the era of Jesus’ people. Their spiritual leaders really thought that they had succeeded in reducing spiritual reality to a system of rules, discussion and hierarchy. Then Jesus came along declaring shocking things, like the idea that the established system was meant to serve the people, and not the other way around; and proving it by healing sick people on a religiously-guarded Sabbath day. Naturally, as all Guardians-of-the-System will, the spiritual leaders tried to get rid of Jesus; but The Fact of Easter broke free of all their schemes.
Even when he was with them on earth, Jesus’ followers had to deal with his tendency to talk to prostitutes, Roman-collaborators, and Samaritans. After His death, resurrection, ascension and the impartation of the Holy Spirit, The Easter Reality broke free of cultural bounds. Imagine the devout Peter’s surprise when the Resurrected Lord clearly told him that he could eat whatever he liked; after his lifetime spent, like a Good Boy, eating only what was proper. When the Jewish followers of the new “Way” heard that the Spirit had hit the Gentiles, and when the upstart Paul focused his zeal on these very same people, there was a huge temptation to treat this as something to control. But this gave way to the unbound nature of the Easter Reality, which was then allowed to freely invade the Roman world.
Author Annie Dillard, In “An American Childhood”, when referring to her Sunday school bible lessons, says, “Why did they spread this scandalous document before our eyes? If they had read it, I thought, they would have hid it. They didn’t recognize the vivid danger that we would, through repeated exposure, catch a case of its wild opposition to their world.” Now safely documented, the Easter Reality continued to wreak havoc, century after century, on attempts to turn it into a religion; instead of what it really is, which is a Kingdom. People like St. Francis and Martin Luther unsettled the established forms of their cultural religious practices; and later on, it was the likes of the Salvation Army and the Pentecostals.
In the Easter outbursts of the last few years, many songs have been written comparing the phenomenon to a river. In the physical world, a river is something that we often try to contain and maneuver for our own use; and when it breaks free of its dams and dikes, it unravels all that we have carefully constructed around it. In the world of the Easter Reality, it would seem that riding the river is more useful (and more fun) than trying to manipulate it.
When I was a schoolchild in Montreal, there was no March break. We had the week off before the Easter weekend, and resumed school the following Tuesday. This meant that the annual spring holiday did not conveniently come at the same time every year; but it also meant that when the holiday was over, it was really over. When living the Easter Reality, it is far easier to go with its flow than to try to mould it.