Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

April 12, 2009


Today some of us get to celebrate the true meaning of Easter


          In a culture that has commercialized Easter, it may be helpful to pause and remember the true significance of this Sunday for millions of Christians around the world. Many seemingly innocent ideas can obscure the true meaning of the historic day called Easter Sunday.

Some of us have been victimized by pagan concepts that have no biblical support in Christian doctrine. The word “Easter” is not found in the Bible. The word is actually derived from the name of an ancient pagan goddess of spring. Nowadays “Easter” is merely an adjective used to describe things that have nothing to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

          Take Easter shoes for example. Growing up, if I got a new pair of shoes, they were bought for me to wear on Easter Sunday. It was a family custom. Mama took us to Sears Roebuck and got us new shoes for Easter. If the farming had been good the year before, we might also get a new outfit.  What do shoes have to do with Easter? Nothing.  

          Rabbits are another appendage to Easter. One can hardly imagine celebrating Easter without seeing bunny rabbits everywhere. Stores display huge bunnies to attract customers to sales. Children pester their parents to buy them a live rabbit though most of them settle for a chocolate bunny.

          Chocolate bunnies are my favorite. My wife likes jalapeno peppers. I like chocolate bunny rabbits. Easter is simply not Easter without a delicious chocolate bunny to enjoy. Have I been victimized? Perhaps so.

          When I was a boy I raised rabbits.  A pair Daddy bought me soon became a dozen. A few weeks later we had fried rabbit for supper. The project had nothing to do with Easter. What do bunnies have to do with Easter? Nothing. 

          The list goes on.  Everywhere there are Easter eggs, Easter baskets, Easter lilies, and Easter sales. Pastors ponder where to draw the line. Just how much of this Easter madness should the church “baptize” and embrace?

Some churches sponsor Easter egg hunts for the children though often no mention is made of the resurrection. Easter eggs are pretty. Children have fun hunting for them. The key word is fun.

 Though an egg hunt may be harmless fun, for large churches it can become quite a production. One church “hides” three thousand Easter eggs annually. One wonders if the time and money could be devoted to a more significant human need.  One tired but loyal volunteer remarked, “Two hundred of those eggs will never be found by the children; we will uncover them weeks later while tending to the lawn.”

          Florists are crazy about Easter. They sell thousands of Easter lilies.  Some churches make a profit adorning the chancel area with lovely lilies. Buy them for five dollars apiece, sell them for ten, and clear five dollars for the missions’ fund.  

          Easter lilies hold sentimental value for me. When I was born in the spring, my dad picked some wild Easter lilies in the woods behind our house. He put them in a Mason jar beside my crib. Wild lilies still grow behind the old home place.

          Easter occurs in the spring of the year because the death and resurrection of Jesus happened in springtime, at the time of the annual Jewish Passover. So we associate Easter with the budding of flowers, the new life of nature.

          Spring is a delightful season. Winter is past and the earth is bursting with the glorious beauty of green leaves, spring flowers, and budding trees. New life is everywhere as what appeared dead comes suddenly to life.

          But what happened to Jesus on Easter morning was much more than the changing cycles of nature. His resurrection was in no way like the spring birth of flowers. His resurrection was qualitatively different. Flowers born in spring will die. Next spring new flowers may come from the seed or bulbs that have lain dormant in winter. But as much as we delight in the beauty of spring, this process of nature is not what the Bible means by the resurrection of the dead.

          The dead body of Jesus did not "sprout" buds from which a new person grew. God infused life into his dead body and he was physically alive again. God transformed his old body into a new glorified body. The tomb was opened so the women and the disciples could look inside; the Risen Christ was already out! He had conquered death! The grave could not hold him!

          Lovely flowers and colorful butterflies are wonderful gifts of God. We can enjoy their exquisite beauty and embrace them as expressions of God's love. Those who like chocolate can enjoy a chocolate bunny. The kids can hunt eggs. Buy the children some new shoes – if they need them.  But do all this without including these Easter parasites in the same breath with the resurrection of Jesus. Butterflies and bunny rabbits cannot save us from our sins!
          Cynics say that the grave is the end. Beyond the death of the human body, there is nothing more, only dust. The resurrection of Jesus was God's answer to hopeless cynicism. It was God’s way of saying, "Don't be afraid. There is more, plenty more. So much more that you can hardly imagine what a wonderful eternal life I have planned for you - if you will only trust my Son for salvation!"

          Enjoy the wonders of bulbs, seeds, and cocoons. Celebrate the coming of spring. But remember that the resurrection of Jesus has done something for you that bunnies and butterflies can never do. His resurrection has opened the gates of heaven and offers you blessed hope that you will see your loved ones again.

          This is the faith God’s people enjoy when the true meaning of the resurrection is divested of all the sweet pagan embroidery. That is why our churches are crowded on Easter Sunday. Hope drives us to raise our voices and shout with conviction: "He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!"  + + +