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Rev. Peter Baldwin Panagore Headshot

Does Easter Have Relevance?

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My local paper sent a notice around to all the local clergy asking the question: "What relevance does Easter have in the world today?" What world? In the Buddhist, Jewish, Jain, Zoroastrian, Shinto, Zen, Islamic, Sikh, Wiccan, Atheist and Secularist worlds, Easter has as much relevance, I think, as the widely celebrated Hindu holy day called Holi has to me. Never heard of it? Me neither. The first time I learned of this ancient, and apparently fun, holy day was in the gorgeous color photos on HuffPost's Hindu page. It is important to recognize that the world at large is not Christian, and that America, in particular is changing rapidly. We are no longer all Christians here, if we ever were, which we were not. So, what relevance does Easter have in the world?

Easter has relevance only in Christendom, unless one counts the worlds of war Christianity gets involved in. In the worlds of war, Easter has a huge impact on the world writ large. All churches participate and have equal opportunity. Maybe it is one thing we all do, we Christians, unless one counts believing in Resurrection, which by the way, I do.

The two main branches of the Christian Church don't even live in the same world. They live in two separate Easter worlds. They celebrate Easter on two different Sundays -- worlds apart. There are two different Easters annually. Really, you ask? Truly. The Western Church celebrates Easter on April 8 this year, and one week later, the Eastern Church celebrates Easter on April 15. Some years both Easters fall on the same date. Most years they do not. Which date is correct? It all depends on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere. It also and mostly matters on whether your church ascribes to the Julian or the Georgian calendar. It is so like Dr. Seuss' "Better Butter Battle Book," it makes me chuckle. One side butters their bread on the top, and the other side butters their bread on the bottom. Being half Eastern and half Western myself, I have celebrated both Easters, or one or the other, most of my life. That sort of experience gives Easter a bit of a twist. The East uses the Julian calendar. The West uses the Georgian calendar. The setting of the date is basically based on belief. I believe this and you believe that. Belief, we know, is not knowledge. We do not know that Jesus rose from the dead. We cannot know that. Knowledge is not belief. We believe Jesus did. We believe He rose. We believe He broke the current laws and theories of physics. Because of His rising, we Easter people believe in eternal life. We believe in forgiveness. We believe that God is love. We believe these because there are those living among us who witness aloud to inexplicable and direct experiences of God. We see that belief in Easter can and does change lives; and that belief opens human souls to feel the Living Love of God like fire.

Our belief is wholly unreasonable, difficult to substantiate and impossible to prove. And yet, God, at one time or another has touched millions of hearts. Maybe yours. Certainly mine. I cannot tell you what it feels like. I wish I could, but I do not have to tell you, because maybe your heart tells you that there is more to this world than science can measure. Maybe your Easter heart tells you that God is Real, that Jesus lived, that the Christ Light is not imagination, or idiocy or foolishness, but Reality, a World, beyond this world, and Christ opens that door for you.

What relevance does Easter have to the wider world today? Not much. What relevance does Easter to the world of an Easter believer? To an Easter believer, Christ becomes the World.

Source:
Geisel, Theodor Seuss, New York: Random House Publishing, 1984.