I am thinking of Easter, a very long time ago . . . that bright morning as the sun rose above the darkness of the night . . .
when I was just five years old.
The great lawn at the Episcopal Church in San Antonio is strewn about with beautiful pastel-colored plastic eggs. Each one is filled with a mysterious treasure we small children could only surmise to be of such mysterious worth as to stand wriggling at the edge as we tug desperately at our mother’s hands to get the jump on everyone else and snag the great prizes that await inside.
What lay within those dormant containers of plastic? And when did the Easter Bunny lay them? Of course, it is still several years before it would ever even occur for us to ask “how” the Easter Bunny laid those eggs (and plastic ones at that), much less in such awkward spaces as the branches and twigs of a tree or in St. Francis’ hand! There is so much mystery! And nevermind the ancient pull of myth and archetype around the symbols of rabbits and fertility and eggs and new life getting all mixed up with the early Christian Church’s understanding of Christ and resurrection!
I’m thinking about candy and prizes and money — I hope there are quarters this year!
Did my 5-year-old anxiety rest simply in the cultural pressure I must have felt to succeed, to achieve the greatest consumptive volume of the crowd? The victor is the one with the most stuff in the end? Yes, of course!
But, surely for some few children, it was not merely about the haul, but the hunt! The quest for the perfect egg! There would certainly be that precocious child who chose not the path of consumption, but more the path of novelty — looking for the one egg that spoke to him or her. Would that be me this year? The path less chosen? The child who would later don a glove in right field as the safest place for the team to put the wanderers and imaginative ones, while their parents stand outside the fence prodding, cajoling, “Watch the batter! Pay attention!” . . . sometimes forgetting that that is exactly what the child is doing?
“Not me!” I think, as I tug more urgently at my mother’s hand.
I look about the lawn and notice there are hundreds of kids I don’t even know! These are strangers who will have no concern for me, I fear. It’s every child for him or her self! It’s like a real-life re-enactment of Social Darwinism! Why don’t my parents see the potential bloodbath here! I’m torn between my inner football coach and a wise angel when I notice groups of friends congregating like suburban, Episcopal gangs, plotting to systematically swarm the more congested egg quadrants — the one kid with them in the fancy bunny suit, I reason, has been chosen as a distraction for the rest of us!
Still, even in my kindergarten mind, my childlike, pre-formative learning stage, I somehow know that such aggressiveness and wanton desire is beneath the moral ethic and lifestyle of Jesus. What would he do at such an event, I wonder? I know that when the smoke all clears, I might be one of those “contestants,” wandering the lawn with a dozen others, stumbling about like a scene from “Night of the Living Dead,” until our parents run out to collect us. But what is the Christian thing to do, I wonder, in such a moment?
And for that brief moment I acknowledge that I might decide to be one of those rare kids who chooses at some random point to help a fallen hunter whose basket has dropped in the melee. Or I might be the one to pause suddenly at the sight of another “weaker” compatriot, overwhelmed by the massive density of various-sized two-legged creatures, clamoring about for “the plastic.” And I might just reach into my basket and offer that stranger an egg . . . or two.
But the adrenaline and excitement is too much and before I know it, someone blows a whistle and the next thing I know is I’m standing beside my parents, dazed and panting; and my basket is filled with maybe a dozen multicolored eggs, some already cracked open with empty candy wrappers, chocolate streaks around my mouth . . . and it’s over!
Thank God there are donkeys and pony rides and balloon artists to distract the agony of defeat!
OK, so I still love Easter egg hunts and did the same for my kids as we will continue to do for our grandchildren. But I have to say, Easter is still a strange time of year for me. It is chaotic Easter egg hunts, and large, sometimes awkward, family gatherings, and overwhelming 12+ hour day schedules at the church during Holy Week, and the inevitable crowd of once-a-year worshippers who don their finest to make a show of it at the Easter parade while others stay home to avoid the crowds trying to arrive early and get the “good seats” to see the full symphony and hear the “Hallelujah Chorus,” while an angry mother or father still at home is impatiently trying to avoid that inevitable, embarrassing, late arrival and being forced into the “overflow” room. It is the Season’s answer to Christmas’ Black Friday!
But it is also family and connection and the deep, if even unconscious, longing for renewal and hope after a long season of winter. It is, for many of us this year, a longing for hope in a time of debate and divisiveness and hatred and unthinkable violence. There are a multitude of reasons for being in church this Sunday beyond the obligatory annual trek of the Easterers and Chreasters (those who add Christmas Eve to their attendance).
The world is full of destructive, self-focused, hateful, disappointing, self-doubting, competitive, and desperate stories. But if the Easter story reminds us of anything, it is a reminder of God’s “yes/and” to the world. It is that God’s life and love reign through and above all else. As Michael Coffey writes, God is “that wizard of astonishment, the author of unexpected epilogues, the springtime of wildflowers in greened up dead fields who resurrects our small minds above the predictable plot formulas.”
I hope you will don yourself however you please this Easter Sunday (in your finest, or your finest comfortable and casual) and join us for a Celebration of Wonder and Life at the nine:thirty-nine or eleven:eleven celebration for what I’m sure will be an experience of joy and beauty and inspiration.
nine:thirty-nine | eleven:eleven
Saving Grace is . . .
“empty tombs and stepping stones”
Pre-Celebration Music both hours with
Hillary Hummel (harp) & Dace Sultanov (cello)
featuring the music of Sarah McLaughlin, Enya,
sacred hymn and Stevie Wonder
and guests Jackie Cabe (actor), Rigo Velez (trumpet),
Decker Bergin (trombone)
and the Revolution Band!
Come early for refreshments and conversation . . .
See you then!