John Updike was an American writer of the last century known for his ability to describe middle-class life. His most notable works were the “Rabbit” series, in which he recounts the life journey of Rabbit Angstrom, an “Everyman” character easily recognizable by all readers. But Updike was also a self-professed Christian and in the course of his heavy writing schedule took the time to pen one of the great Easter poems, “Seven Stanza at Easter,” in which he acknowledges the impact Jesus’ resurrection should have upon the life of every believer. I particularly appreciate the fourth stanza:
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
fading credulity of earlier ages;
let us walk through the door.
Most years, as Easter draws near, I feel the pressure to prove the day’s significance, to explain it in a way that even the most doubtful of souls would believe. But the more I ponder the story of Jesus’ resurrection, the more I understand that such an approach to the Easter story falls vastly short of its original intent. Easter is not to be explained; Easter is to be announced. It is to be announced as God’s invitation to leave behind an old life that is marked by sin and shame so that we might enter into a new world that is characterized by hope and joy.
That’s most definitely how the first believers approached their experience with the Risen Jesus. Rather than attempting to explain it to people in their day, they simply proclaimed Jesus’ victory over the grave and then summoned others to open their hearts in order that they might experience for themselves the possibilities of renewal his resurrection can bring.
That’s why Easter is not so much a celebration of a past event, something that happened only to Jesus 2,000 years ago. It is rather the inauguration of a new reality in which our future is secured and our tomorrows are taken care of. The resurrection of Jesus doesn’t just leave us on the sidelines of life as passive spectators; it lifts us up, puts wind in our sails, and commissions us to go to make new life happen in our world.
So, this Sunday morning when we come through the doors of the Sanctuary to raise our voices at how the grave could not contain Jesus, understand that the stone was rolled away not so much so that Jesus could escape. It was also rolled away so that we might walk through with him into the world to proclaim a different story – a story of peace in a day of discord and of light in a day of darkness. Now, who pray tell would reject an invitation to walk into a world like that?
“For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).