On my recent trip to Puerto Rico I witnessed profound hope in the midst of great despair. I met people who embraced me with their joy filled spirits even while their daily lives had been dismantled, and five months after Hurricane Maria they were still living without power and the simple daily comforts that we have all come to expect. The spirit of the people in Puerto Rico changed me somehow. And as I walk through yet one more Easter season in my life, I realize that these faithful people understand in the depths of their hearts the meaning of being Easter People!
This morning I read an article in the newest issue of Presbyterians Today by Gusti Linnea Newquest. She writes about a fairly new phenomenon called Death Café. The idea was born out of the anxiety and fear that so many people have concerning the end of life. In a 2010 study on American attitudes toward dying, anthropologist Dr. Helen Stanton Chapple describes the prevailing cultural view of death as a battle to be won, rather than an inevitable biological transition to be accepted.
If you visit a Death Café, you will be served tea and cake and given the opportunity to talk with others about your thoughts and feelings about death. The goal is to move towards conversation about how you want to live your life knowing that you are going to die, a fact which, indeed, is a reality for us all, no matter how many vitamins we take! Newquest mentions that the majority of Death Cafés are secular in nature.
So why do I bring this up now? Because, my friends, this is the time, this is the season, this is the high holy holiday when we announce to the world the good news of the Resurrection. We sing that death has lost its sting, and we proclaim that Christ has cheated death.
So what would a conversation for us as Christians sound like if we sat down for tea and cake to discuss death? I am guessing that we would share thoughts that you might hear around the secular table. We would talk about living each day as if it might be our last. We would talk about spending time with our families and our friends. We might mention the places that we want to go before our time here on earth is over. We would no doubt talk about helping others and think of ways to leave a legacy.
BUT that would not be enough, because as Christians, we know something that the rest of the world needs to hear! Every Easter as we walk through the story of our faith, we witness profound hope in the midst of great despair. We encounter the followers of the crucified Christ who embraced one another with joy filled spirits even while their daily lives had been dismantled. We enter the story and know that we need not be anxious or fear the end of our lives here and now because God holds the rest of our story. And the promise is sure.
Our Brief Statement of Faith puts it this way:
“In life and in death we belong to God. Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, we trust in the one triune God, the Holy One of Israel, whom alone we worship and serve.
In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit, we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks and to live holy and joyful lives, even as we watch for God’s new heaven and new earth, praying, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
With believers in every time and place, we rejoice that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
As each birthday passes for me, I realize that I am moving closer and closer to understanding the reality that in life and in death I belong to God. So, Easter People, if you would like to sit down for tea and cake one day soon, give me a call! I would so enjoy talking with you about the promise that we have been given:
Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed!