Dear friends in Christ,
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! The Easter season continues for a total of fifty days, because there just isn’t enough room in one day or one week to contain the joy and the impact of the resurrection. And so we get to greet each other throughout the season with the joyful greeting of Alleluia!
I don’t know about you, but after giving up the Alleluia for the season of Lent, it felt wonderful to say and sing it again on Easter morning. It’s a word that just feels good in your mouth; it rolls off your tongue and it has a song of its own even before you put it to music. If you missed the Big Reveal on Easter morning, the kids saw that the Alleluia banner—which we buried in actual dirt on Transfiguration Sunday, the last Sunday before Lent—had “sprouted” into an actual growing Alleluia spelled out in green seedlings!
The planter also included breadsticks, stars, and rainbow cross lollipops which were all related to the various items we had buried or “planted” over the weeks of Lent in the children’s sermons. It was quite a sight and you can still see some of it on the table in the narthex. Finally, on Easter morning the kids were all given “portable greenhouses” in which they could put a little soil, a few seeds, some water, and hang them in a sunny window to see the seeds sprout and grow.
As we (Worship and Music) were brainstorming and planning for this fun project, someone brought it to my attention that what we were doing could be interpreted as lying to the children. After all, do breadcrumbs really sprout and grow into breadsticks? Does glitter really grow into stars when watered and fertilized? Can paper cut in the shape of “Alleluia” actually turn into growing plants? Some kids would understand that this was an illustration of new life and resurrection, but others might not…which leads kids to ask, now or later when they learn the truth, why is the pastor lying to me? Why is the church telling me things that are not true?
Resurrection is more than just seeds growing and the earth coming alive in spring after a long winter. Resurrection is not about what happens naturally; when Jesus was buried, nobody expected that he would be alive again three days later. The reason we use the image of plants growing from seeds because the two are so very different from each other, and resurrection is about transformation. It is a more powerful image if you can momentarily set aside what we know to be true, and look at the image from a wondering perspective. If we didn’t know how plants came to be, and you saw a small, dry, wrinkled, dead-looking seed, you would never think it could sprout into a green, growing, living thing. And yet it does! Surprise! We so easily forget the wonder that is present in the world all around us.
Jesus’ resurrection means that the flavor of life itself has changed. Death, endings, change, things that used to be a source of despair and fear have been transformed into paths to new life, passageways to a new living space. Resurrection reverberates in our own lives every time something that seemed to be The End turned out to be A Beginning. And even though we might intellectually know this to be true, when we behold death, endings, change, we fear them as if we did not know what they can become. We forget so easily that the “seed” of death is transformed by Christ into the green growth of new life.
No wonder we need all fifty days of Easter (and probably more) to let this new reality sink in. It takes a leap of faith to trust that our end is not The End. But this is what God promises in the resurrection of Jesus. So don’t be afraid to call out “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” for the remaining days of Easter, or to answer, “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”
Together in Christ,