What is Easter, really?

According to The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (Hirsch, Kett & Trefil, 1988), Easter is a holiday that every American needs to know about. Easter is a social construct, too.  That’s right; it is a made-up holiday celebrated differently by diverse people around the world. It’s considered a most holy day, along with Christmas, for Christ-followers, but people make up how they choose to celebrate it. When I first read Berger and Luckmann’s landmark social science book, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge, I had a hard time accepting that much of our reality is socially constructed. I am a huge proponent of free will. But as time went on, I realized the theory holds much truth. How we live life—largely what we believe and why we believe it—is passed on to us culturally. That’s right, we make stuff up! We make up our culture, values, customs, ways of life, language, and to a large extent, our thought patterns. For the most part, we accept what we grew up with. We live life through social constructs I contend that the social construction of reality is not a bad thing, and does not make the reality behind a celebration or practice any less true. Easter is not just a holy day, it is a holy season. Coinciding with spring in the northern hemisphere, (where most of our Easter traditions came from), it follows a 40-day period called Lent, which since ancient times has been set aside as a season of penance and reflection, where believers are encouraged to make sacrifices and engage in acts of goodness. In this way, Christians are prepared to remember the sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ who was both God and man in one being. Lent culminates in Holy Week, which starts with Palm Sunday (remembering Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem), then continues with Maundy Thursday (remembering the Passover supper Jesus had with his disciples and his washing of their feet), and Good Friday (remembering when Christ was executed), and finally celebrating Easter, when Christ rose from the dead. Lenten and Easter practices seem to be very ancient. In his “History of Lent” (2002), Fr. Saunders cited a letter to the Pope written in A.D. 203 commenting on the differences between how Easter was celebrated in the East and West: “The dispute is not only about the day, but also about the actual character of the fast. Some think that they ought to fast for one day, some for two, others for still more; some make their ‘day’ last 40 hours on end. Such variation in the observance did not originate in our own day, but very much earlier, in the time of our forefathers.” Many Christian customs were either borrowed from other religions or simply made up. The use of incense, visual depictions (crosses, crucifixes, icons, painting, sculptures), church architecture and many other things were used to help people connect to God. As someone pointed out, the use of “bells” and “smells” helped illiterate congregants throughout history connect with a God who isn’t tangible. Like the rest of the church calendar, dates were set aside to remind Christ-followers of many of the important aspects of the New Testament, which chronicles the life of Jesus and the beginnings of the early church. Other “holy days,” which we have come to call “holidays,” include Advent and Christmas (leading up to and celebrating the birth of Christ), Epiphany (celebrating the incarnation of Christ and the visit by the Magi), and Pentecost (remembering the outpouring of God’s spirit on early believers shortly after Christ’s return to God the Father). A basic tenant of Christianity is that God is made up of three distinct persons, designated Father, Jesus the Christ, and the Holy Spirit. These three do not exist or operate in an authoritarian structure, but by relationship and communication. Unlike Christmas,...

What Does It Mean?

These few days are undoubtedly the most important in the Christian calendar; they are centerpieces of the faith. But there is no one-way to view the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. That said, I think it’s important to think about. I contend that how you view Jesus’ death and resurrection reflects on your view of God and how you related to the Divine. In his book, Across the Spectrum: Understanding issues in Evangelical Theology, Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy devote an entire chapter on “The Atonement Debate.” There they outline the three main perspectives: The Christus Victor View (Christ destroyed Satan and his works) The Penal Substitution View (Christ dies in our place) The Moral Government View (Christ displayed God’s wrath against sin) Here, in a nutshell, is an overview of these perspectives. Then I will make a case for something more simplistic that may work even better for you. According to Boyd and Eddy, the Christus Victor view was the most popular until the Middle Ages. It was based on the idea that, “Jesus’ death and resurrection defeated Satan and thus set humankind free from his oppressive rule” (Boyd & Eddy, p. 114). Later John Calvin and Martin Luther developed the Penal Substitution view, that Jesus took on the punishment that humankind deserved. One must understand, however, that Calvin was an attorney, so he saw everything in legal terms. For him, there was a debt to be paid, and Jesus paid it. The problem I have with this view is that it turns our relationship with God into a transaction. A transaction is that I put down money at the store and I get to take the milk home. However, everything about scripture tells me that God is interested in transformation,...

Finding God In Brokeness...

You can’t be satisfied. Life is difficult. You don’t know the secret. The Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction is available here. Have you read the book? Post your thoughts below after reading...

Falling Plates

Interesting and though-provoking short film about life, death and redemption. We live in a world of broken plates. Watch it for the creativity and...