All my life, I’ve loved Easter. Those who know me well know I enjoy Christmas more. My wife’s favorite holiday is Easter. Yet Easter is more significant and more powerful for our Christian faith. I love Easter because it too, like Christmas, is about life, new life, abundant life. Only Easter is more about life renewed, life not born but born again, resurrected. That remains why for me Easter is more important.
I also love shadows. They are mysterious, interesting, suspenseful. They make one ask, “What’s really there?” “What’s going on?” Shadows create narrative. They cultivate stories. They are a shadow of what really is. They aren’t reality, but they are a shadow of reality.
I have lived Easter shadows before. When I say Easter shadow, I mean what I state. They are a shadow of Easter – not fully what is real, but a semblance of it. These have been Easters in a different context, in isolation & lonely. One was in Paris with my parents and brother. We went to Notre Dame along with many others for its service. The words were all in Latin. We sat in the back. My brother fell asleep. I tried to stay awake because I felt I should. It was kind of special. But it was only a shadow to me of what Easter should be. Another was in Australia. I was with a small group who decided to get licensed to scuba dive over the long Easter weekend. Obviously, Easter was not as important then as I made a conscious choice not to worship, but spend the weekend learning to scuba dive. Those were my priorities then. For Easter morning, I did get up before dawn. I walked down to the beach, faced the Pacific, and watched the sunrise. It was pretty. It wasn’t that special of an Easter. It was again a shadow of what Easter should be. I could also argue, at that season of life, I was living as a shadow (and shallow) Christian. Not fully real. There were many shifting shadows in my life.
Now, I live in Easter shadows of the present.
For all too many, Easter can be a blip in the midst of life’s shadows. Easter is all about light. We dress the sanctuary in images of white. There are white sheets over the cross. Light, colorful clothes are worn. In the Deep South, it’s the day one can start wearing seersucker pants or suits. It’s also about water, the clear water of baptism. Good Friday is dark. Easter morning is light. Yet, as pastor, I’ve known lots of people who celebrate Easter while weighed down by the dark shadows of life. A marriage falling apart. The estrangement of relationships. The encroaching illness. The anxiety of job loss. On Easter, like Christmas, we call a truce, hit a pause button, to act as we should, for one day, or maybe one week, at best. Then Monday morning comes. Perhaps it carries into Tuesday. The shadows descend. Easter light is magnified only for a brief moment. It should be our reality. It can be treated more like a halftime.
This Easter, with Covid-19, shadows are everywhere, all encompassing. There is no Easter worship (I know, we do online too). The light Easter brings is instead dim to many. Dark shadows seem more powerful. Thus, Easter has become a shadow of what it has been, as we have known it. In such a time, Easter should be, has to be, a light over all shadows. It should overshadow everything else. Or one can easily fall into dismay.
That is the choice I face along with many others. Either Easter shines over everything else or it is a shadow of what it truly is. I choose the former. I do so intentionally, even as it is difficult to do so. Easter should overshadow everything else in life: persecution and pandemic, war and woes, grieving and grievances. It’s supposed to, right? Yes. Even while the reality of these things remain, Easter shines over all. Christians, we know, or we’re taught, will be resurrected too. You just have to believe. And often, it just doesn’t seem real either. So we walk by faith, and not by sight. That is what I choose.
Easter is also meant to be a foreshadow of what it to come. Engaging, powerful times of community worship are a foreshadow of our future life in heaven and the new heavens and earth. Baptism is a foreshadow, reflecting our eternal, forever life. Our spiritual resurrection is a foreshadow of our ultimate physical resurrection. Easter foreshadows all that is to come.
“These are a shadow of things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:17).
Easter proclaims: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). Death seems to hang over us now as a shadow. You can’t even see it coming, and it’s there. In COVID-19, you can’t even gather to celebrate the lives of the loved ones who have met death.
And yet, Easter does, and always will, overshadow it. Resurrection is more powerful than death. Easter announces this. It foreshadows what is to come. “He (Jesus) brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart” (Psalm 107:14). Easter’s light overwhelms all the shadows of this life, showing me Easter remains our greatest gift in all times. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).
Jesus is our greatest gift because of Easter. “You have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy” (Psalm 63:7).
Because of Easter, light enters into all our shadows. It foreshadows our life to come: one of no pandemic, disease, tornado, estrangement, isolation, or despondency. And it can overshadow anything we face today because of its promise and hope.
ARE YOU STILL MOVING? YES…
Yes, we are still planning to move to Paris this summer 2020 to start an international English speaking church. Thank you to our partners so far! We are humbled by those who are supporting us. For our partners, don’t forget to read our private blog posts (What Scares You The Most About Moving To Paris? & What Are Your Number One Hesitations In Marriage about the Move?)
We cannot leave until we raise 80% of our support. We are committed to this mission, regardless of a pandemic or other deterrents. If you are interested in partnering, please join us in our journey today.