Living Into Easter Joy - Kate Bowler

Arthur Brooks: When Success Isn't Success

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Living Into Easter Joy

Easter isn’t just one day—it is an entire season. The next fifty days celebrate Jesus’ victory over Sin and Death—which is even longer than Lent. It’s a reversal that resounds through all time and eternity, but can we party that long?

You may have experienced that Easter joy again this year, where the truth of the resurrection felt fresh and real. Perhaps you sensed the immediacy of it, like the women at the tomb when they were told by two bright angels that Jesus was not there because He had risen from the dead. Or when Jesus appeared to the disciples in the upper room in his resurrection body that was no pale ghost, but was His real Jesus self, translated.

In such times of Easter joy, there is certainty that every power that ever dared to war against God has been brought to nothing. Prayer is as easy as breathing, and it’s like there is grace for small annoyances. …Like when you realize that you just sat on a tiny piece of Zach’s stray Easter chocolate and now you realize that nothing will ever get chocolate out of velvet. Also, why were you wearing velvet?

Or maybe Easter is more like the golden hour, that time late in the day where the sun is so low in the sky it bathes everything in perfect candlelight, but it slips away too soon. How often do we miss this daily ritual promising we’ll pay attention another day? I wonder if that was what it felt like for the disciples. After the resurrection, Jesus stayed with them—not just for a weekend—but for weeks and weeks. And if we’re honest, how sustainable is Easter joy in our everyday life?

And what happens to Easter joy when something dramatic and tragic crashes in? I used to think that my life was like a melody, but then when the crisis hit, everything just stopped. I couldn’t find the tune, couldn’t put it together, couldn’t make it sound just like before.

We live with constant reminders that there is something seriously wrong in this world, our own Paradise Lost. Cells that multiply when they shouldn’t. Senseless violence. Gas leak explosions. Fractured relationships. As the Canadian poet (and national treasure) Leonard Cohen said, “There is a crack in everything.

Sorry. Am I Lent-ing the crap out of your Easter?

I started wondering what if this huge tragic thing that has crashed into my life has set in motion a deeper resonance, sounding together with the old melody? What if I can go on singing, but with a new intensity that rings truer somehow?

Since then I have been thinking about joy as something we live into.

In all that we live with. And precisely because of what we live with.

We are an Easter people living in the story that started under the bright stars in a stable at Bethlehem, moved into the darkness that shrouded Christ on the cross, and now stands breathless before biggest occasion to crash into our history. Fleming Rutledge calls it “the transhistorical event,” where the true nature of God was revealed in Christ.

Rutledge says:

The resurrection is not a set piece. It is not an isolated demonstration of divine dazzlement… Since the resurrection is God’s mighty transhistorical Yes to the historically crucified Son, we can assert that the crucifixion is the most important historical event that has ever happened. …The resurrection ratifies the cross as the way “until He comes.” The Crucifixion (44)

We live in the now and the ‘not yet.’  And in the meantime, which is what we have—the ‘meantime’—our songs are like those in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings on the Fields of Cormallen, where the minstrel sang to all the host “until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together, and tears are the very wine of blessedness.”

Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again! Alleluia!

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Sheryl Fowler
Sheryl Fowler
3 years ago

Wow. Just wow. I have to admit that Easter lost its luster for me when I was no longer a child. I hate to say it, but the end of the grandmother-made fancy dresses, hats, and white gloves, the end of hunting for real hard-boiled eggs dyed Jordan-almond colors, the end of big extended-family dinners which had dwindled to so few that we didn’t have to put but one leaf in the table, I don’t know why but the joy died. And those are all secular things so why did they affect my joy? Even when my own kids were… Read more »

3 years ago
Reply to  Sheryl Fowler

I read Sheryl’s post and recognized so many of her reflections. Yes, the childhood simplicity of joy at Easter. Finding joy, whether from a secular or spiritual perspective seems much harder when one is coming from a position of loss or pain. Kate talks about living into it. I try to live alongside it. Now, my joy comes from unexpected sources and is very, very brief. Thus, I try to cultivate joy. And stop to fully experience it. This was not necessary in childhood nor before calamity. Learning to laugh in the midst of pain is what I think it… Read more »

Leisa Greathouse
Leisa Greathouse
3 years ago
Reply to  Sheryl Fowler

Except for grandmother, I would swear we grew up in the same house. Your Easter traditions were mine. Loved all my childhood and Easter was a great experience for me. I too have some difficulty finding that joy, especially due to the death of my son at age two. One thing I’m reminded of almost everyday though, is to reclaim the child (child of God) that is dormant within me.

3 years ago

Perfect timing and just what the Divine Physician ordered. Happiness is fleeting but joy is permanent.
Thank you!

Laurie O'Neil
3 years ago

Beautiful sentiments-I love the “living in the meantime” reference… I recently blogged about the critical importance of embracing our “in-betweens.” Thanks for this reminder to “live in” to our joy; that heightened in-between space that’s opened up at the tragic intersections of our lives❤️

Therese Roberts
Therese Roberts
3 years ago

Kate—So, so, so beautifully expressed. Thank you for taking the time and energy to put your thoughts down; I am richer now that I have read and pondered them.

Marilyn Zwicker
Marilyn Zwicker
3 years ago

The resurrection from the dead
Real for me
Facing a broken body
My youth dies finally
I emerge from that tomb
A different person
Not quite finished
Wisps of despair
And betrayal cling
To my psyche
I am not sure
How to live in this
New space
No longer autonomous
The road I walk now
Is unfamiliar
And finite
Time is speeding
And death is real

3 years ago

So thankful we can both read and listen to your reflections. Really helpful as I take in the honesty of your words. Grateful for a reminder of the not yet.

3 years ago

You have reminded me of Leonard Cohen’s lyric and I love the way the stanza you quoted begins and ends :
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in. ”
The light, the light, the light…that is everything.
I needed to be reminded of that today, and every day.

3 years ago

Thank you.

Niki Hardy
3 years ago

Oh my goodness, yes, yes, yes!!! I rally against the idea that the full, abundant life God came to give us is waiting for us when our storms our over. Not just because for many of us our storms are never over and the world has told us abundant and full mean healthy and wealthy, but also because it is, as you pointed out, theological nonsense. Life doesn’t have to be pain free to be full. Somehow we can hold both joy and fear, hope and pain, hurt and healing, all in the palm of our hands at the same… Read more »

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