“He is Risen” Day

he-is-risenBut on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Luke 24:1-12

I learned something new on Sunday morning. I learned that on Easter, when a Christian greets you by saying “He is risen,” the proper response is He is risen, indeed.” Seriously, I’d never heard that before Pastor Randy greeted me that way right before “sunrise services” (I say that in quotes because sunrise yesterday was at 7:27 a.m. and our “sunrise services” were scheduled to kick off at 8:30 a.m.).

I also remembered something that I had completely forgotten. Easter is usually the service which requires a multimedia program for the main event. But I didn’t remember that until the program actually started.

I did remember that church is usually packed on Easter and tried to arrive early, but the real crowds didn’t show up by 8:30 (though there was a respectable attendance). By the middle of the main service (or around 10:30 or so), people were still coming in and it was practically standing room only.

Or almost.

But the thing that struck me most of all was my lack of emotional attachment to Easter. Everyone was fairly gushing with joy and happiness over Easter and while I think it is important to commemorate the resurrection of the Master, I just didn’t “feel” it, at least not with an intense power surge.

I dunno…maybe there’s something wrong with me. As an emotional experience, it felt pretty much like any other Sunday at church. I had some friendly conversations with folks. I enjoyed Pastor Randy’s teachings. I was OK with the music and the Easter program.

But it wasn’t like the day was incredibly, amazingly, profoundly, special. I’m sure that after it was all over (around 11:30), families went home for a big Easter Sunday feast, but because I’m the lone Christian in my house, I went home and helped my wife pull weeds and water the new plants.

I don’t know how it happened, but I’m more attached to Passover than I am Easter. It’s probably through sheer repetition. Even when I first became a believer, I only attended a church for a few years before becoming “Messianic.” I’ve probably been to a lot more Seders than I have Easter Sunday sunrise services. In fact, this was the first early morning service I’ve ever attended for “Resurrection Day.”

Actually, besides Pastor Randy’s teaching on Luke 24, I’d have to say that the early morning outdoor service was my favorite part. I learned that even when the high for the day is projected to be about 70 degrees F, it’s still quite cold outside at 8:30 in the morning. I’m glad I wore a sweater, but people brought blankets, and when I first sat down, that chair seat was freezing!

Boise-SunriseThe outdoor service was simple.

Someone reads a section of Luke spanning chapters 22 through 24 and we sing a little bit. Back and forth, back and forth. Three stanzas and five readers. Sing a stanza, a reader reads. I like having the Bible read to me. It sort of reminds me of a Torah service when readers are each called up for an aliyah.

Other than that, I especially liked when, during the main service, Pastor explained what “TaNaKh” meant, including that “Law” is a poor translation of the word “Torah,” and that “Torah” comes from a Hebrew root word related to “teaching.” I did a silent little happy dance inside when he was sharing that from the pulpit.

I almost felt him chiding me when he was talking about how we need to study the scriptures, and especially on “things to come.” We had the identical conversation last Wednesday. I told him I tended to steer clear of studies and commentaries about “the end times” because I’ve encountered too many people who are just “conspiracy theory crazy” about “the end times.” He said to everyone else on Sunday what he more or less said to me last Wednesday. I doubt he was trying to “zing” me, but maybe my response to him resulted in the topic being included in his sermon.

I learned the theological use for the words “inspiration” and “illumination.” Apparently inspiration is directly related to this:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…

2 Timothy 3:16

“Inspiration” really means “expiration” (actually, “exhalation”) or breathing out, so imagine God exhaling and His Word leaves His lips and enters the ears of man. Pastor Randy said that each word of the Bible was written exactly as God intended it to be written and thus is perfect. I tend to think of the Bible more like a partnership between God and human beings so that something supernatural is experienced by the writer, but the vocabulary, style, syntax, and everything else about the written scriptures has the “thumbprint” of the human author. That’s why we see such variability between accounts of the same event in different Gospels, for instance.

“Illumination” is just what it sounds like, light or enlightening.

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself…They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

Luke 24:27, 32

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…

Luke 24:45

light-in-my-handsDuring his sermon, Pastor Randy said almost exactly what I often think about. He said that he would love to be able to watch and listen as Jesus opened the minds of the apostles and explained scripture. From my point of view, I would be ecstatic if Messiah would open up my rusty mind and interpret the scriptures with absolute fidelity for me.

I’ve said before that I believe one of the roles of the returned Messiah is that he will be a great teacher (the greatest) and teach what the Bible means in absolutely correct and perfectly enlightening terms to all of us.

Please, illuminate me.

But that, among many other things, is yet to come.

I wish I could get all worked up about Jesus being risen. But in my mind, he was risen a thousand years ago, he was risen the day before yesterday, and he’ll still be risen the day after tomorrow. I know Easter (interestingly, Pastor Randy referred to the day as “Resurrection Day” or “the Lord’s Day,” but he didn’t say “Easter” once…he did mention the Didache, which surprised me, since FFOZ articles refer to it with some regularity) is the Christian equivalent to Passover; a sort of “retelling” of the greatest event in the history of the church.

But like I said, I didn’t feel it. Easter Sunday didn’t resonate within me. I went to have fellowship and to worship, but the fact that it was Easter didn’t set off any bells and whistles. I wonder if it ever will?

He explained those statements, saying that it was energetically imperative for human beings to realize that the only thing that matters is their encounter with infinity.

-Carlos Castaneda
from The Author’s Commentaries on the Occasion of the Thirtieth Year of Publication of The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, pg xiii

Maybe I’m just bad at Christian traditions and culture. Or maybe I missed out on a special encounter with infinity; with the infinite One.

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9 thoughts on ““He is Risen” Day”

  1. I know exactly how you feel. The emotions just don’t get flowing over the same things they used to. I’m not sure if its a good thing or a bad thing.

  2. I think a lot of it is cultural and involves repetition, Sean. Churches have cultures that exhibit specific behaviors and responses and if I had gone to a church long enough in the past, I probably would have picked up on and integrated the emotional response to Easter. Having so little experience with a “religious Easter” (I’m sure I hunted for Easter eggs as a child), I just don’t have the emotional connections. At this later stage in my life, I wonder if I ever will.

  3. James and Sean, I can relate. I have more emotional attachment now to Passover than Easter. Passover, to me, is the beginning of the exodus, therefore, an integral part of the crucifixion-resurrection event, so to speak. As a pious Irish-Italian Catholic kid I was enthralled with the majesty and beauty of the Roman ritual. As I look back, perhaps the enhanced ritual experience distanced me, through distraction, from thought of the true event. I quietly acknowledge 17 Nisan as the anniversary of the resurrection. I acknowledge Easter in order to stay in “unpertrubed” fellowship with my Catholic family and friends, mostly. And to wake-up and read connected Scriptures with family. I also enjoy watching movies that recount the miraculous event. Last night, we watched the final installment of The Bible on History channel. Such productions may not be perfect, but they are great for stimulating thought and discussion. And I like to to keep my sons connected to the larger Christian scene as far as “Easter” goes. It’s a blessing to acknowledge the resurrection on both days, I’ve found.

  4. Speaking of movies Dan, the “multimedia” event for my church’s Easter service was a video of a group of actors playing out parts of the various witnesses to the crucifixion, as if they were giving their eyewitness testimonies. The actors were good (playing the parts of the High Priest, Peter, the Centurion, Mary) but the theology was off. For instance, the actor playing the High Priest said that Jesus was a distraction and that he (the Priest) had to sacrifice the Passover lamb (as if there were only one rather than each family bringing a lamb for sacrifice) in order to atone for the sins of Israel (which was a freakish reference, since the Passover Lamb does not atone for sins, and the High Priest makes a sacrifice for national atonement only on Yom Kippur).

    It was one of the “down” points in my Easter experience.

  5. Another great reason to join in with Easter Sunday commemoration? The food! Pasta and sparkling grape juice and ricotta pie and plenty of chocolate… I, personally do not partake of ham on Easter, however. Just a personal thing. I can’t imagine the most unclean of unclean foods having become the traditional Easter Sunday meal for honorable or good reasons.

  6. Dan, the week of unleavened bread doesn’t end until sundown on Tuesday, so any “bready” breakfast treats are off my personal menu. There was a brunch between sunrise services and the main service, but I decided not to even peek in. I’d already eaten breakfast and had taken an apple with me to keep my blood sugar up.

    I helped put chairs away and spent time in the sanctuary reading the Bible until the “main event” started. It felt more productive somehow. I didn’t want to explain why I wasn’t eating and I’m not really into crowds.

  7. I tend to agree with you, James.

    Being much younger than you (23), but still a few years into Messianic thought, the day of Easter has been quickly becoming less and less profound for me.

    Not because I don’t get excited or joyous commemorating the empty tomb, but simply because I realize Easter, quite historically, has nothing to do with the actual events that took place during Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, 2000 years ago.

    I guess it’s an ignorance is bliss kind of thing, but for me, I can’t look at the holiday in the same light I did as a child, knowing full well the various realities behind it. Same goes for Christmas. (Im not a pagan-oid, but regardless, the holidays are not divinely ordained)

    Not sure if that’s part of the reason nothing resonated for you, but it surely is for me.

    The interesting part are the looks I get if I am confronted about my not “celebrating Easter” as a follower of Jesus. It’s as if I have a slug slopping about my face as I try to explain myself to my protestant friends.

    Peace to you, friend.

  8. I’ve backed away from my previous position of celebrating only Biblical holidays and disdaining Christian traditions. After all, Judaism is replete with many lovely traditions, and if the church chooses to honor the Messiah’s resurrection with the tradition of Easter, how is it bad?

    My church has removed any and all Easter bunnies and eggs, so the entire focus is on the resurrection event. Actually, it is on the crucifixion and resurrection, which I found redundant, since Passover’s focus is on the sacrifice of the Lamb and Easter attends to the risen Messiah.

    As I’ve been internally processing my experiences this morning, I am finding a profound sense of disconnection. I’m getting a little tired of matzoh since this is near the end of the week of Unleavened Bread, but with the passing of Easter, where is there left to go spiritually?

    My faith is reconstructed every day.

  9. I wouldn’t characterize their “non-biblical” celebrations as bad, either. Regardless, for my own purposes, I have seen too much, I suppose, and it’s hard to place meaning back into something that, historically, had no such thing until it was Christianized.

    There is no disdain here, but the holidays seem like extra luggage for me, some sentimental value remains I guess, but that is quickly (and surprisingly) waning each year.

    On the other hand, my spiritual joy and connection to Passover and Unleavened Bread (and the other feasts/holy days) only continues to gain meaning and relevance.

    As for getting somewhat tired of Matzoh however, I feel your sentiment 😉

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