Most holidays are predictable. July 4, December 25, February 14 – we automatically know the holiday connected to these dates. But Easter changes. Easter is the first Sunday after the full moon (called the Paschal Moon) after March 21, which is the spring equinox. Easter is tied to solar and lunar cycles, not the calendar, so can be anywhere from March 22 to April 25.
There are so many symbols tied to Easter. They tend to be cuddly and fresh and colorful. We think of the bunny as the symbol of abundance or the carriers of baskets of goodies. Colored eggs are a representation of the tomb and Jesus breaking forth at Resurrection. Butterflies that emerge from their cocoons symbolize new life. Lilies represent purity. Chocolate eggs and Peeps are simply awesome.
We’ve glossed over the pain of Easter. Crucifixion was a horrible way to die. Jesus was whipped and beaten; he was mocked even by the two that hung on either side of him. Jesus wondered aloud if God had forgotten him. As part of the Paschal Moon ceremonies, a lamb would be sacrificed. We don’t want to think of a lamb bloodied on an altar, we want to envision the cute, snuggly version.
Unexpectedly, I received news that a former colleague, Bob Lower, had died. He and his wife, Ada, are people that you know your life is richer the first time you meet them. Bob was a servant – served in the military, taught and served students, served as a missionary on the reservation, served in disaster relief, served hungry people and served as a role model for me and many others. He laughed quickly and loved deeply.
I think back fondly on the time we worked together. I saw firsthand his heart for his family and for others. I am grateful for his witness and his life centered on God. But I also remember standing in his home without walls, amidst piles of rubble, devastated by the Minot flood. I remember the searing pain of his granddaughter’s death.
Bob’s death has left a sting. Maybe because it’s due to the unpredictable cycle of life, not the predictable cycle of a calendar.
Easter reminds us about life, that jellybeans and baby chicks walk alongside pain and the sting of loss.
Easter is always the answer to “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!” ~ Madeleine L’Engle