When I was a growing up we didn’t have Easter egg hunts. People in Britain give each other large hollow foil-covered chocolate eggs, often filled with candy. I think I was eight the Easter I had chicken-pox and I got a bumper crop of Easter eggs. I never had so many before or since.
Yesterday I happened to be briefly at an Easter Egg Hunt. There was a separate section for the little ones, where eggs lay totally unconcealed and within easy reach. As they toddled forth, their mothers encouraged them to pick up as many as possible and put them in their little baskets. Not all of them got the idea. Some just stood there, taking in the unusual scene. Others wandered around without any plan not even picking up the eggs at their feet. It was a different story for the older kids who had no hesitation in running around, getting as many eggs as they possibly could before anyone else could grab them.
[As the basket of eggs comes round I invite you to take one or two or even three, but try not to eat all of them right now.]
An Easter egg hunt seems like an odd way to celebrate Easter… to encourage children to compete with each other to get the most possible for themselves. It seemed to me to be a picture not of God’s unconditional and astonishing love but of rampant capitalism. Get as much as you can for yourself and don’t worry about anyone else.
That is not the Easter we celebrate here today. Today we celebrate the one who died and rose again. The One who showed us that death is not the end. The One who passed through the veil of death and came back to demonstrate that Love is not killed by our hatred, but lives on and continues to love. As the reading from Jeremiah told us, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”
Today we remember that God poured Godself out for us. Not only did God take on all the limitations of being human and live on this planet just as we do, but then the God-man, Jesus, allowed himself to be stripped not only of his clothes but of his dignity and to be killed.
Over the centuries we have gotten used to Easter. We know how the story goes. We know that Mary Magdalene came to the womb early in the morning and was horrified and grief-stricken to find that Jesus’ body had disappeared. This was the final injustice and indignity in a terrible few days. Not content with tormenting him and killing him, now they had disappeared him. We know that her horror turned to joy when she realized that the man she had mistaken for the gardener was in fact her beloved Jesus alive in his resurrection body. We know all this.
So the big question for us is does this really make a difference?
Jesus did not die to take away our sins. Clearly, we still have them. On Thursday, we dropped a huge bomb in Afghanistan. It was a bomb that brought death and destroyed everything in its wake. A bomb that changed the landscape forever. Easter is like a bomb, but not a bomb of human destruction, a bomb of life and of love. A bomb which changes the landscape for ever.
For we now know beyond a doubt that God’s love is greater than the worst we can do. God’s love continues for us, as individuals and humanity as a whole, however screwed up we get, however competitive, however self-centred. And in the self-giving love of Jesus we have a new model, a model of caring for others and for the whole of creation; a model of giving up ourselves instead of holding on and hoarding.
There is an ancient legend which predates Jesus. It says that, in times of famine, a mother pelican will wound herself with her beak and use her own blood to feed her young. God essentially did just that. God allowed Godself to be wounded by humanity so that we might be fed with the bread of heaven. This wasn’t an afterthought on God’s part but was part of the ongoing process of creation and redemption – the process by which humanity has been created and is being transformed and recreated into the one Body of Christ, we are intended to be.
At the end of the reading we heard from Acts of the Apostles, Peter is explaining about Jesus. He says, “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” We often misunderstand that word “believes” to mean that we intellectually assent to something as factual. But that’s not what it means here. It means conviction and trust.
Forgiveness comes not just through an intellectual act of belief, but through living like it’s real, having conviction and trust that Easter is real – living like Jesus’ resurrection changes everything. Because it does. Now we know that we too can live after death, what holds us back from living a different, a daring life? What is there to fear now we know that God’s love is so great that it holds us up through death and beyond? What is there to keep us from daring to stop grabbing for ourselves and instead to give and forgive?
We pray the prayer that Jesus taught us, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Forgiveness is the key to resurrection living. Not just that God forgives, but that we too forgive; that we stop holding grudges, that we stop trapping each other in the mistakes of the past. As we let go of all the guilt that we carry, we can release others of their guilt. Yes we hurt others, and we get hurt ourselves. But forgiveness frees us from the cycle of violence. Forgiveness stops the tit for tat, the eye for an eye that goes on in a ceaseless circle.
Jesus death and resurrection gives us the courage to live as he did. It gives us the courage to dare to be counter-cultural. It gives us the courage to live with an ethic of restraint so that we may give generously and share God’s love and forgiveness with all people.
Because that is what it’s all about. Easter is not about how many Easter eggs I can get for me. Easter is about the tremendous abundance of God’s love that enables us to turn human civilization on its head and instead of getting more and more for me, enables us to give and live the outpouring of love that is Jesus the Christ. The outpouring of love that is Easter.
[During the peace we will have an alt.Easter egg hunt. Your task is to give your Easter eggs away!]