What does Easter mean to you?
Published 7:39 pm Saturday, March 30, 2013
The Tribune asked local pastors what Easter meant to them — here are their answers:
Easter gloriously and powerfully demonstrates the unconditional love of God our creator, redeemer and sanctifier. This love inspires and leads me to make every effort to love all God’s creatures, especially those who seem hard to love.
The Rev. Henry Doyle
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Christ Episcopal Church
Is Easter just one day? If it is, it is a whirlwind for me. There’s church at 6:30, 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m. Then there is a mad dash to family, a quick meal and a nap. If Easter is about waking up, then why do I take a nap? There must be more to it.
We talk in the church that every Sunday is Easter all over again. Even during Lent we set aside the quiet reflection to take up the celebration of Easter’s new life.
For that matter, can we say that every day is Easter? Martin Luther said that when he rose in the morning, he would set his feet to the floor, make the sign of the cross, and say, ‘In the name of the father, and of the son, and of the holy spirit.’ Some may say that sounds a bit Catholic but Catholics are Christians too and it sounds a whole lot like something a Christian would do and say. And what a great way to start each day, to begin each day with the name of God, to dedicate each day to God, and to start fresh each day with the name of God.
The Rev. Todd Walsh
Grace Lutheran Church
There are some things in life that you can count on. The phrase “death and taxes” comes to mind. There are some things in life that you cannot count on: tragedies, illnesses, job loss, loss of purpose. Things of that nature come to mind.
And in the middle of these two opposing ideas is Easter because Easter, to me, throws all of this out of control. With the resurrection of Jesus it means that at least one of those things that we are supposed to be able to count on is now not the case. There is a great preacher in Georgia who put it quite well when she said, “If the dead don’t stay dead, then what can you count on?”
This then is what Easter means to me: that there is something greater in our world, something more powerful than our own tragedies, illnesses and hurts. It means that ours is a God who can take those things and bring life from them.
Easter means that God is one who loves us so much that God will always be there guiding us, offering forgiveness and a new chance in life. You can count on that.
The Rev. Mark Niethammer
Salem Lutheran Church
What a glorious time of the year is Easter! Easter is the day when we, with Christian people everywhere, celebrate the most significant event in human history — the resurrection from the grave, the return to life from death, of the son of God.
Among all the facts of mortality, nothing is so certain as its deathly end. How tragic, how poignant is the sorrow of those left behind. The grieving widow, the motherless child, the father bereft and alone — all of these can speak of the wounds of parting. But thanks be to God for the wonder and the majesty of his eternal plan. Thank and glorify his beloved son, who, with indescribable suffering, gave his life on Calvary’s cross to pay the debt of mortal sin. He it was who, through his atoning sacrifice, broke the bonds of death and with godly power rose triumphant from the tomb. He is our redeemer, the redeemer of all mankind. He is the savior of the world. He is the son of God, the author of our salvation.
His death sealed the testimony of his love for all mankind. His resurrection opened the gates of salvation to the sons and daughters of God of all generations.
The Rev. Edward Thomas
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Easter is one of the most exciting times of the year to me because of what Easter is all about. Easter is not about the bunny, colored eggs, new outfits or even family gathering around for a beautiful meal. I love these traditions, but that’s not what it’s really all about. Easter is about the power of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. It’s about the power of God to bring back to life that which was dead and beyond hope. It is the power of God to restore life and bring salvation.
Salvation saves us from the sins of our lives that would eventually destroy us if it weren’t for the power of God to save those who believe. Anything good in life is made possible because of the power of the resurrection. It was written about Jesus that “in him was life and that life was the light of men.” John 1.
Jesus said of himself, “I have come that you might have life and life in abundance!” This to me is what Easter is all about: the power of the resurrection of Jesus that brings salvation, abundant life and everlasting hope.
The Rev. George Marin
Grace Christian Church
Easter is about God creating life through resurrection. This is something God has done, is doing for us now and will do for us in the future. It began when God surprised everyone by raising Jesus from the dead. Scared and disappointed disciples, who had completely lost hope, saw their smoldering belief rekindled.
Easter is also what happens any time God creates new life for us now. Our merciful creator sees us captive to fear, distrust and disappointment. Always ahead of us and at work, God does what you and I cannot do on our own: God breaks into our lives and recreates us, reconciled to God and one another. Now we can know Jesus as real and alive, and we can be challenged by him. We can grow to love Jesus, who indeed first loved us.
Finally, Easter is what God promises to do for you and me down the road. When our bodies have reached their limits, God will resurrect us with new bodies to serve in a part of the kingdom we’ve not yet seen. No one can prove such a thing, nor need we. We just trust the promise: God raised Jesus, and God will raise us, too.
The Rev. Dennis Frank
Cross of Glory and West Freeborn Lutheran Churches
Children ask many questions: What’s your favorite color? Blue. How tall are you? Six feet 4 inches. What’s your favorite holiday? Easter — because it is the most important day of the church year.
In fact, it is so important that: Easter lasts for 50 days, until Pentecost; we prepare for Easter for the 40 days of Lent; and it really takes “three days” (Triduum) to celebrate it — Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Why? Easter enables us to remember and enter more deeply into the central mystery of our Christian faith: the saving passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. No, we never fully understand this mystery, but in word, ritual and song we open our hearts, minds and lives to the truth of the Easter message. Surrendering to this mystery we call paschal, offers us an abiding sense of the risen Lord’s peace and joy. Whether we are thriving or struggling, God takes us where we are and leads us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, whose journey ends not on the cross, but with the resurrection. As St. Augustine declared, “We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song!”
The Rev. Timothy T. Reker
St. Theodore Catholic Church and St. James Catholic Church
Albert Lea and Twin Lakes
Easter, or the resurrection of Jesus, is the ultimate game changer in my eyes! Not only do we find ourselves brought into right standing with God through the righteous work of Jesus on our behalf, but we find hope that this life is indeed, not all there is. The hope that death has truly been conquered gives me the strength to face my darkest days with resilience since, whatever may come, Jesus will walk through it with me. Even when it looks like the end … a new day dawns with promise! In Christ, we may be down, but we are not out.”
The Rev. Matt Hundley
Albert Lea Vineyard Church
Last year I was at a local store and happened upon a bicycle that immediately made me think of my wife. It had a retro look that I knew would please her and with a heart of love I purchased the bike. When I arrived home, I led my wife, her eyes closed, out to where I had left the bike in the front yard. Upon opening her eyes she was delighted and immediately went for a ride; she fully accepted the gift of my love.
Easter is a time when we remember God’s gift of love. He sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins. Having taken the punishment that was ours upon himself all the way to the grave, he rose up to life again.
The Bible tells us that the reason God gave his son to die in our place (a gift) was because he loved us so much. By faith we receive God’s forgiveness (another gift) and we live with the hope resurrection (and another gift). Easter is either a time to remember these gifts or to receive them.
That’s what Easter means to me.
The Rev. James Petersen
Easter means joy and celebration! There is no greater day to celebrate. Many people celebrate Easter with chocolate bunnies and colored eggs with beautiful baskets and stories of Peter Cottontail. They gather with family and friends to have fun.
But, for me and other Christians, this day defines our lives because this day is about life. I prefer to call Easter by another name: Resurrection Day! On this day we celebrate the historic event of Jesus, the son of God, coming back to life, leaving the grave behind and proclaiming his resurrection to many people of that first century.
This day we celebrate all that God has accomplished through his son, Jesus. His death on the cross of Calvary looms in the past, but the empty tomb shines brightly in the morning sun. He gave up his life to pay the price for the sins of every single person in the world. He rose on the third day to declare victory over death that one enemy that we must all face. Because of Resurrection Day, death has no permanent hold on all who believe in Jesus. There is no greater day to celebrate! He is risen indeed, alleluia!
The Rev. Joel Vano
Zion Lutheran Church
Following worship, members of my congregations and I shake hands or exchange hugs as they exit the sanctuary. Later, I can take a roll call by sorting out the various scents of perfume and aftershave, soaps and powders that cling to my hands and to my clothes. A prayer is sent up for each scent associated with a particular beloved parishioner. I am reminded of Philippians 4:18: “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”
After Easter morning worship services, the “roll call” is richer! Unfamiliar scents mingle with the familiar as friends and distant family gather to hear the good news of the empty tomb. Of course Easter means victory over death, hope for a better world, the promise of eternity in glory. Beyond that, Easter brings long-lost faces home. People hungering for light and hope and joy come together to be fed with singing and prayers, listening and rejoicing. The scents of baby shampoo and Old Spice and Chanel, with tulips and daffodils and lilies mingle and bring to mind the fragrance of an empty tomb in a garden – nard and myrrh, olive trees and fresh earth. With Mary and Peter, I find Easter joy here.
The Rev. Cherie Daniel
Freeborn Congregational United Church of Christ, Alden United Methodist Church and Grace United Methodist Church
Freeborn, Alden and Kiester
I cannot celebrate Easter enough. I can eat too many Peeps, color too many eggs and vacuum up too many jellybeans. But I cannot celebrate Easter enough because there is no end to celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection.
I’ve been touched by death — of family, friends and news of death in our society. I know human brokenness. We shatter too easily; we end too quickly. Easter is God’s answer to my fear and anger about death in two ways.
First, I’m fragile because I’m already “cracked.” Jesus’ death admits that there is a brokenness in me so offensive to God that his perfect son must die in my place to make it right again. “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)
Second, Jesus’ resurrection is hope despite death. My brokenness dies in Jesus’ death, and his resurrection promises my resurrection. “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” (Romans 6:5)
Because I have faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection in my place, there is no end to my Easter celebration.
The Rev. Michael Bentley
Hollandale Christian Reformed Church
To me, Easter means that every day is the first day of eternal life, God’s gift of endless days to live in compassion and mercy for the sake of the crucified and now living Lord Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Jeff Laeger-Hagemeister
St. John’s Lutheran Home
To me Easter means the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, love over hate, life over death. The fact that Jesus died on a cross for my sin, and that he rose again, assures me of forgiveness, life and salvation. With that assurance I have hope through all the difficulties and vicissitudes of life. I have someone to turn to in times of joy or sorrow. I know whom to thank for all the blessings in my life. Then, when this life is over, I know I have a friend who will welcome me to his heavenly home, which will be better than the best of this life, and it will last forever.
To me, Easter means Jesus is Lord, his love is for real, and it’s time to celebrate! Jesus Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
The Rev. John Holt
First Lutheran Church