Easter. For my entire life, this particular holiday was unique among holidays, especially as a Christian, especially as an Evangelical Christian. It’s still unique, but this year not in the usual way.
For the last several years, I worked for large churches for whom Easter was their “Super Bowl” Sunday. We knew that on Easter weekend, even more so than at Christmas, we would see an influx of Chreasters, those souls who limit their church attendance to Christmas and Easter. Attendance typically spiked so much, that it wasn’t unusual for us to add services beginning on the Thursday before Easter and hold multiple gatherings each day throughout the weekend.
Easter was our opportunity to put our very best foot forward. The day was so critical there would be a dedicated budget for Easter service. In a whirlwind of frenetic activity, we would pull out all the stops to create an experience that rivaled even the most awe-inspiring rock concerts.
But then came the pandemic.
Most churches, at least the ones guided by wisdom and humility, are abandoning their typical gatherings and offering online alternatives. Also affected are the usual Easter Sunday gatherings for feasts and egg hunts. I know my Easter Sunday is going to be much more sedate than in years past. But, that doesn’t mean the day is any less significant. It might even hold a higher value than ever before.
I hang out with a tribe of people whose collective experience was the dismantling of our faith and a search for what a post-deconstruction life will look like. Each of us has landed in different places. Some of us, like myself, still identify as Christian, albeit Christianity has taken on a very different expression. Others fall on varying points along the spectrum of belief and disbelief. What we do share, however, is a love for one another and a desire to be better human beings.
Case in point.
Yesterday, my friend Imelda, a local teacher, alerted us to a need the family of one of her students had for food. Over the next hour or so, the text thread conversation went like this:
Imelda: Hey y’all. One of my kid’s families has humbly asked me for help finding food for them. Does anyone have butter or cooking oil to spare? I can pick up.
Daniel: I have eggs!
Amanda: Is that all they need? I’d be happy to make a grocery store run and pick up some things for them!
Rey: I have an unopen container of milk. Erika also told me she has a number of canned veggies and things she can send over. I can come drop it on your porch.
Christina: We have a few canned and boxed items too. I know we are a little far but I’m about to run to the Asian market off of Rittiman rd and could meet you
Alex: I have a bag of beans I can spare and some frozen zucchini! I also have cooking oil and butter!
Imelda: Yes, please. They have a big family.
Kayla: I have white beans and am going by the store today. Let me know if you need me to pick up anything.
Megan: We can spare eggs and butter and some canned goods.
Imelda: Y’all are amazing. Thank you for all the donations today. I was able to give food to two of my students. I had them both last year too.
What struck me most about this was that there was not one beat skipped. There was not the slightest hesitation to jump into action for families that only one of us knew. The exchange got me to think about what Easter means to me this year.
Julio Vincent Gambuto wrote a beautiful article for Medium. In it, he says everything I’ve been pondering these last weeks as we have hit the collective pause on our lifestyles. He says that we have a chance to redefine what humanity is all about. As he put it:
“From one citizen to another, I beg of you: Take a deep breath, ignore the deafening noise, and think deeply about what you want to put back into your life. This is our chance to define a new version of normal, a rare and truly sacred (yes, sacred) opportunity to get rid of the bullshit and to only bring back what works for us, what makes our lives richer, what makes our kids happier, what makes us truly proud. We get to Marie Kondo the shit out of it all. We care deeply about one another. That is clear. That can be seen in every supportive Facebook post, in every meal dropped off for a neighbor, in every Zoom birthday party. We are a good people. And as a good people, we want to define — on our own terms — what this country looks like in five, 10, 50 years. This is our chance to do that, the biggest one we have ever gotten. And the best one we’ll ever get.”
Put more succinctly by Patti Radle, co-director of Inner City Development in San Antonio, in an interview with the Rivard Report, “I hear people say they’re so eager to come back to normal. I say I hope we get back to better.”
Without getting too much into the weeds, the Christian tradition of Easter owes a large part of its origin story to the Jewish celebration of Passover. As Easter gives a chance for Christians to observe Jesus rising from the dead to offer the hope of new life to believers, Passover commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from oppression and captivity.
Through this pandemic, humanity has a global experience that requires a global response. The pandemic is tragic, but my hope and dream are that it will be the death of an old and tired way of living. On the other side, humanity rises to pursue a new way of looking at and living the precious life we have to steward.
The pandemic is, perhaps, God’s way of guiding us to pause and reflect on the state of our existence. I hope we understand that we don’t have to go back to doing the same things the same way.
One of the lessons I hope we don’t miss is how many things — in which we previously invested endless amounts of tangible and intangible resources — we have discovered we can live without so that we all can learn to live again.