by Peter White
“There’s no point in triumphing over evil if the evil isn’t scary,” writes sci-fi and fantasy author Neil Gaiman.
There’s something about standing in the dark of the early morning. And you watch the sky melt, ever so slowly, from black to dark blue and deep purple. And then comes the 17 different shades of orange that radiate one at a time from the horizon. And then finally the sun’s fiery yellow explodes scattering every shadow and dissolving every trace of the darkness, erasing every last remnant of the black night.
It’s the wordless resurrection sermon of nature. It’s awesome.
I like to think that Easter is all about change in momentum. Easter is about dead things that come back to life. It’s about that unimaginable thing called “resurrection.” When I think of resurrection, I imagine one of those heart monitors you see in the movies that has flat-lined, and then suddenly that green line blips and spikes again. *BEEP*
I find it interesting how zombies have become such a thing in pop culture in the last few years. Oh yeah, it’s definitely entertaining—the dead coming back to life bring death and destruction. But here we have the Christian story of resurrection turned upside-down and inside out. The Christian story is one of ever-contagious life. It’s the dead coming back to life to make everything new.
In the 4th century, there was a pastor in Egypt named Athanasius. He wrote some pretty foundational stuff about theology. In On the Incarnation, he writes, “But now that the Savior has raised his body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing… Death has become like a tyrant who has been completely conquered by the legitimate monarch; bound hand and food as he now is, the passers-by jeer at him and abusing him, no longer afraid of his cruelty and rage, because of the king who has conquered him.”
Life wins. Unequivocally. Death doesn’t just lose. Death is humiliated. This is what Easter is all about. Because Jesus conquered death, none of our hurts, habits, or hang ups—none of the evil or injustice in the world—get the final word. As Jesus himself says, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
The story of Easter is so subversive.
To watch the news, read the blogs and social media feeds, it’s natural to fall prey to pessimism, cynicism, and fear. What’s falling apart this week? The world is dying. But here’s the thing: the world has been dying ever since Adam and Eve got evicted from the Garden of Eden.
And so, this is why I love Easter. In the children’s story The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, as Aslan explains to Susan and Lucy what really happened when he died on the Stone Table, he says “Death itself would start working backwards.” If, because of sin, the world was dying, then it stands that, because of Jesus’ resurrection, the world is now coming alive again.
For the past two years I’ve had the awesome opportunity of celebrating Easter at Guthrie Green. I can’t imagine better place to celebrate resurrection.
That city block used to be a truck-loading facility. It was a brownfield site, which means the land was contaminated with pollutants. Its renovation included removing the contaminated soil and abandoned gas tanks. And now, what used to be a dead urban space is now an outdoor living room. It’s a place of a beauty, a place of community. And not only that, but it also has a geo-exchange system, 500 feet below, that generates energy for the surrounding buildings. It gives life to the neighborhood.
What an incredible symbol of resurrection and the kind of work God does making all things new.
Another great preacher and pastor of the 4th century was John Chrysostom. He has an Easter sermon that ends with these words:
O death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?
Christ is risen and you are annihilated.
Christ is risen and the demons are cast down.
Christ is risen and the angels rejoice.
Christ is risen and life is set free.
Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of the dead: for Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the Leader and Reviver of those who have died.
To Him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.
Easter is about leaving the past in the past and letting God start something new today. Let the dead things die. Leave them alone.
There may be scary and evil stuff afoot in the world, but hope is the biggest thing of all.
I hope to see you at sunrise at Guthrie Green.
Peter White is both a Tulsa native and transplant, having moved away for 9 years and returning 6 years ago. He probably spends too much money supporting the downtown food economy. When not eating within the IDL with his wife, he can be found watching Netflix, whining about the Seattle Mariners’ pitiful offense, reading a theology book, keeping his toddlers from stealing each others’ goldfish crackers, or being a minister of First Methodist. He can be followed on Twitter @thatpeterwhite.