When my father died, we found on his desk the beginning of a sermon that he was preparing to give about Jesus' resurrection from the dead. The calm certainty of the way he started what he was going to say was both a comfort and a challenge to us who were left behind. We were glad to know that he faced his own death with no fear, but we missed him; for us, Jesus' promise that one day we too shall rise from the dead seemed, at that moment, a poor exchange for the presence of a much-loved husband and father.
The themes of Lent, Holy Week and Easter are hugely important, and not just to Christians. Lent is a time for thinking about what controls us, what gives meaning to our lives, while Holy Week and Easter make us focus on the great themes of life and death.
The history of how and why Jesus died on the corss is at least partly an analysis of what we all do to one another when we are controlled by fear, or greed, or love of power, or too much love of ourselves. At every turn, Jesus challenges us to be brave enough o step out of our self-made prisons and turn towards the source of lif e and freedom, which he calls God. Unfortunately, too many of us don't see the fear, greed, love of power and love of ourselves as prisons. We see these emotions as necessary to grab what we think we need for our own security; we might even be prepared to kill for them, just as people 2,000 years ago were prepared to kill Jesus rather than hear his challenge.
Jesus taught that the only life worth having is a life shared with others, a life that brings challenging freedom to everyone. A selfish life, turned in on itself, and concerned only with self-protection, is already too much like death to be worth bothering with. Jesus' teaching is something that many, many people, of all faiths or none, believe and live out in the generosity of their daily lives. Believers see this as beginning to share in God's own self-giving life, and are often humbled by the way that others, who don't use that language, will still live it out.
Easter is the great celebration of life. It is not an attempt to deny the reality of death, but simply to say that we don't live to die. We live to share and make life possible for others. Christians believe that God's life is shared so powerfully and with such love that nothing can end what God gives us. Even beyond our death, God still has more to give and share.
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