Easter is a strange time of year. It’s a season when we celebrate new life: spring is in the air, and we decorate with pastel colors, bunnies, and chocolate eggs. And yet in all this sweetness we are celebrating something outrageous and almost unbelievable: Jesus came back from the dead! Really? Can anyone come back from the dead? And if Jesus came back from the dead, that forces us to wrestle with who he really is. If Jesus came back from the dead, as his followers we are challenged with living the kind of resurrected life he taught and demonstrated. Is that possible? Perhaps it’s better to reach for the chocolate. Easter is problematic.
More problematic still is that to get to resurrection we have to come face to face with an awful, bloody, unjust, torturous execution. For me this is the most troubling and most miraculous part of Easter. Jesus dies! He is falsely accused and deserted by friends who assured him of fealty. He is physically and emotionally abused by religious leaders, rejected by the popular culture, and handed over to a brutal empire to carry out the dirty work. The crucifixion is obscene! Why would Jesus subject himself to so much evil and hatred? Why would he make himself so vulnerable? This is problematic.
Easter is a celebration of the vulnerability of God. As Jesus lives out his divine message of love and acceptance for the whole world he runs the risk of rejection. Otherwise it’s not true love; it’s control. And reject him we do: we don’t want to put others first; we don’t want to turn the other cheek; we don’t want to forgive, or be the first to say sorry or let go of resentment; we don’t want to prioritize the poor, the needy, the annoying or those we don’t understand. We don’t really believe that the last and least will be the first and greatest. We believe that love, peace and joy only come from having enough power to be in control of our own environment and outcomes, so we don’t plan on letting go of any of it. We are just not prepared to be that vulnerable. We’re not willing to risk it. Better to put Jesus to death, be done with it, look away and move on.
But Jesus doesn’t shrink back from love. He stays in a place of unbelievable vulnerability. He takes all the rejection and forgives. He takes on all the evil, the darkness, the hatred—the absolute worst humanity can throw at him—and only returns love. At this one moment in cosmic history we seem to be in control of God: we have God in our grasp. God is subject to the outcomes we determine; God is not in a safe place. God dies. But God still loves, even up to and through death, and this amazing love is so powerful that it overcomes and destroys all the evil, fear, darkness and hatred. The power of this love can lead to only one thing: life everlasting, and so there is resurrection. None of this is possible without death. None of this is possible without vulnerability. That’s the miracle of Easter!
Vulnerability is a core value for us at Cedar Ridge. It’s at the heart of what it means to follow Jesus. It takes vulnerability to embrace resurrection and to have hope and believe another world is possible. Only if we are prepared to be vulnerable can we take an honest look at our lives and accept that we need to change, rather than pointing the finger at others as the source of our problems. It takes vulnerability to pursue a pathway of personal growth because we risk failure. Vulnerability means we look out for others and take care of others’ needs, not always knowing if our own will be met. It means moving out of our comfort zone to engage with those who are least like us. It means listening and seeking to understand before being understood and working through conflict. It means owning our mistakes, asking for help, confessing our faults, being first to say sorry, first to initiate affection, first to let go of resentment, and first to say, “I love you.” It means being willing to reach out into a hurting world knowing that we too might get hurt, might fail, might be taken advantage of, and might be misunderstood. It means forming relationships and partnerships with those we seek to help rather than trying to control them.
It means love. This is the miracle of Easter!