Many of us who are deconstructing and evolving in our faith find Easter weekend to be a bit of a paradox. Since I was a pastor for 20 years, my tradition experienced Easter Sunday as not just as an important day, but literally the hinge on which everything else swung.
In many ways, it still is. But in other ways, it is not.
Religiously, Easter weekend was the big day. I watched the church across street as they brought in a live donkey for Palm Sunday last week and imagine they will have some version of performance this week to remind parishioners of the significance of the events 2000 years ago. We used to gear up each year for a sunrise service and “breakfast on the grounds,” hoping for good weather and strong attendance.
But since I no longer participate in organized religion, most of the pageantry of Easter is gone for me. It seems like I should be sad about that, but I am not. That causes me to pause and consider again like I do with most of religion, was it really meaningful in the first place or was it just what I was accustomed to or, possibly, what I was addicted to? My tradition warned against feelings, but also promoted producing feelings for various types of religious activities. I don’t want to argue either point, just observing what I remember and what I feel.
I know this will cause many people to be troubled and concerned for me because I am not experiencing the same rituals as them. I have learned that I can’t change what others feel, but I can give my reassurance that I am not suffering, and what I feel most is peace!
Like many things, the word Easter comes from a pagan origin and Christians, just like other religions, have imagined themselves to have redeemed a part of the culture when they adapted ceremonies and practices and changed the names to make it more holy. We change the culture and then many times condemn the culture to elevate our own modifications of the same culture. It’s a complicated process that I don’t really even want to think about right now. It’s often the various pots calling the other kettles black or, in this case, debates about Easter eggs and black jellybeans.
What I do want to think about is new life. It’s what I think about when I contemplate the drumbeat and dance of nature, and even when I look at my compost pile. It’s the cadence and chorus of everything going through stages and cycles of death, burial, and resurrection. It is my own struggle to find significance and feel present and authentic amidst the chaos of life. It’s my drive to rise from the ashes every time I feel the struggle and setbacks of everyday existence.
But I also see resurrection when the human race moves closer to justice and equality and compassion and love for each other. I feel hope when an old belief dies to give rise to a new practice that better serves humanity and our deeper, truer selves. I burst forth in exuberance when my old ideas of the Divine perish to nourish and grow more open and sustainable imaginations that lead me toward deeper truths and a better journey.
I understand the pageantry of Easter. I really do! But sometimes we’re trying to create a feeling, while simultaneously telling ourselves it’s not about how you feel. My hope is that we will get beneath the ceremonies of the season to what is at the root – resurrection, new life, and new beginnings.
We often encourage each other to remember the reason for the seasons of our life and our religion. But I want to encourage us to go deeper than that and not just preserve the emotional attachment to past experiences. I want us to forge new pathways into deeper understandings of what new life and resurrection really means.
I acknowledge whatever place you find yourself in on this journey of life. May you dance in the moment and be present wherever you are – in a sunrise service or solitary setting. May you be where you are and who you are – may you experience new life!
Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart and The Tea Shop. He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary podcast. He is married to his wife Laura of 32 years and has one dog named Winston. His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply!