We now live in a time when Christmas has become synonymous with Santa Claus and Easter has now become the Easter Bunny and Egg Hunts. So every Easter, ministers take to the pulpit to try and keep our focus on the real message of Easter. Generally, that message falls under three categories: the incarnation, the story of God became man who came among us, died, and was raised up in fulfillment of the scriptures; or secondly, the message of salvation , the death and resurrection of Christ which reconciles each of us to God our Father or thirdly, the message of new life presented in the resurrection, a promise of new hope, new life and an eternal Spring.
All of these messages are well and true but perhaps there is an even bigger challenge in the meaning of Easter.
To examine the challenge, we need to first understand our own personal environment. As we grow and mature, each of us acquires layers of beliefs and personal value systems. Like the plates that protect an armadillo, these personal credos protect us, sustain us and give us comfort. But just like an armadillo, these “plates” can also become almost impenetrable and unshakeable.
The issue with their impenetrability is that they can sometimes prevent us from discovering the Christ within us. We become so convicted that we know the black and the white, the right and the wrong that we see no other course. And sometimes because of a rigid personal dogma, we offer only a pale reflection of the Christ within us.
The Christ within us — sort of sounds like something a priest or deacon would say, doesn’t it? But think with me for a few minutes.
Think of the deep love that you have felt in your life. The love of a spouse, or a child or someone who has become a significant part of your life. That’s a reflection of Christ.
Think of the tenderness you have shared with your child, nice/nephew or grandchild — something that stays with that child all of their life. That’s a reflection of Christ.
Think of a random act of kindness you have shown to another person – not for any other purpose but to help that person in some way – that’s a reflection of Christ.
All of those are significant but the challenge is that we live our lives offering only reflections of Christ rather than allowing the Christ within us to become the forefront of our lives.
Remember the Beatles song, Imagine. Well imagine with me if we lived in a home, neighborhood, city or town where each of us lived by allowing the Christ within us to be the dominant driver of our lives.
Contrast that with the world we live in now. Where polemics and acrimony have become the language of our day. Where some don’t disagree with a politician but rather they exhibit a visceral rage over him or her. Where a stance on an issue is no longer a personal view but rather a shrill message that needs to be shouted over and over to anyone who listens. Where packing a gun becomes not a right but rather a visible statement that says don’t tread on me. Surely that is not a world that reflects the Christ within.
But listen again to the words in tonight’s epistle: “ For if we have been united together in the likeness of his death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of his resurrection.”
Isn’t that the message of how things are supposed to be? Aren’t all of us called to share in the likeness of his resurrection?
The problem is that armadillo again. Those plates that we wear. Those plates that cause us to say but this is the world we live in and there is nothing I can do to change it. Instead of “paying it forward,” we sit back.
Is it just possible that the message of Easter is this –Christ suffered, died, was buried and was raised triumphant not just to save us but to show us the way to salvation. That way to salvation is through the in-dwelling of Christ within us. It’s not just being Christ like. It’s more than that. It’s spending the time through prayer and perhaps meditation to discover Christ within. And that in-dwelling of Christ becomes real and visible when we realize that each of us is called to be Christ because Christ does dwell within each of us. Each of us is called to allow the inner Christ to become the outward personification of who we are and the way that we live our lives. That requires us to be bold enough and yes, even immodest enough to realize that Christ is within each of us. When we do that, our lives are truly transformed and we share in the likeness of his resurrection. That’s both the challenge and the blessing of Easter. To shed those plates that prevent us from being Christ and to rise triumphant so that His love and life shine through.