Hop On Down And Save
The headline for one of the local grocery store’s Easter advertisements read, “Hop On Down And Save.” My first thought was, “Whatever does this have to do with Easter?” But as I considered it, perhaps there is a greater connection than I’d first realized.
Ask any good church person and you’ll quickly discover that Easter has nothing to do with either bunnies, baskets or eggs; our private, familial celebrations notwithstanding. It is a mark of some level of failure on the part of the church when we note that our society associates this holiday more with those items than the resurrection story. Society, it seems, would rather celebrate hopping bunnies than empty tombs.
That’s not to say that society isn’t interested in the great themes of Easter. There seems to be a huge “hunger” for stories that celebrate self-sacrificial love and the triumph of the solitary, good individual over an evil regime, as one recent box-office hit verifies. I wonder, what’s happened to the Easter message that it no longer resonates in the same way as these other, popular messages? Might the answer be in the way we in the church are telling our story?
To a world that finds fault in “systems” but promotes the virtues of self-esteem, we say that Jesus died for their sins. We’re speaking right past many of them. “What sins?” They reply.
To a people who have been raised to “grab as much gusto” from this life as possible, we say that Jesus died so that they can go to heaven. Then we do a rather poor job of explaining to them what heaven might be like or why they would want to go. “So what?” They ask us, and the message of Easter gets discounted as irrelevant.
What if we were to reclaim the message of Easter?
What if we were to posit in the hearts and minds of society that this world around us is not the product of chance randomness spinning haphazardly toward an unknown destination? What if we made the claim that this world actually had a good beginning from the work of a loving creator and was set askew by some of the very same forces plaguing our world today? What if we told how the world’s creator loved his project too much to leave it spin off into self-destructive chaos; that he enacted a rescue plan and, bore the heavy cost of that rescue himself? Dare we not explain how the creator allowed the forces of chaos and death to expend themselves upon himself, and once spent, he was declared victorious over them?
This is the story of Easter. The agents of death pound nails through flesh into a Roman cross and lift high the King of the Jews. Those in power, threatened by his kingdom, mock and curse him from below. On the cross, in love, Jesus prays, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” With his dying breath, having suffered the worst that the powers had to offer, he proclaimed, “It is finished.”
There were other voices at the cross that day. Some eerily echoing today’s marketing ploys urged him to “hop on down and save (yourself, if you truly are the Son of God.)” Thankfully, those messages did not carry the day. Jesus died, and three days later – new life.
And so I ask you now, what’s your story of Easter? (I know the baskets, bunnies and eggs are for home, with the kids.) What do you tell people that you believe about the Resurrection? Are you always ready to explain the reason for the hope that is in you? (1 Peter 3:15) And, prayerfully inspired by God’s Spirit, is your Resurrection story one that will captivate hearts and minds in the telling?
Praying that our message is greater than “hop on down and save,”