This week people around the world celebrate Easter, remembering an event that is holy in the belief structure of most Christians. What some churches fail to illustrate is that the Easter narrative is to be understood as more than a miracle of resurrection. Easter, when viewed as a historical event, fueled an entire movement to rebel against the Roman Empire, as well as against the dominant religious structure of that day. Easter provided for the poor and oppressed communities of the 1st century the hope they required to change their worldview and ultimately the world itself. The Easter story continues to be relevant because many of the pains from the days of Jesus are still with us today. Yes, much has changed in the last 20 centuries, but much remains the same.
We may not be under the rule of the Roman Empire, but we certainly feel the choking hold of a corporate empire that is continually seeking to influence economic policies. We may not be oppressed Jews living in 1st century Jerusalem, but we are exploited single parents with no safety net, scapegoated teachers and nurses, overworked and underpaid people of every color. We may not have an indifferent Pontius Pilate cleansing his hands of the blood that was spilled, but we have an indolent governor claiming his hands are tied by budget concerns. In the days of Jesus the interests of the Roman Empire influenced the decisions of the local rulers. Today, the interests of corporations like Carnival Cruise Lines, Wells Fargo and the service industry influence our governor and his economic policies. Even though paying taxes is a duty of every citizen, many of these corporations don't even pay their fair share in taxes, while the rest of us struggle to meet this required civic duty. We may not have a bleeding Jesus with a crown of thorns carrying his cross, but we do have many community organizers that have been "crucified" for advocating economic policies that protect the people from the greed of the empire. If you had any doubts about the power of Easter, know that these correlations make the Easter narrative more relevant today than ever before.
This Easter don't mistake the message for a feel-good story surrounded by feel-good songs. Take a closer look at the core message of Christianity and you will see that it is much more. The compassion and living example of Jesus leads to a new worldview full of hope and empowerment. It is with hope that the early followers of Jesus were able to face the challenges of life in the Roman Empire. It is with hope that working class people can face the challenges of life in corporate America. It is with hope that our lives matter that we can listen to the Easter message and connect the dots. It is with hope that we can connect with the same spirit that fueled the early Christian movement to create a movement today.
The Easter narrative is about Jesus overcoming the dominant powers of the day through the miracle of resurrection. Twenty centuries later, the Easter narrative provides fuel for a new kind of resurrection. It may not necessarily fall into the category of a miracle, but it is miraculous. I am speaking about a resurrection of the community. I am speaking about a people who have been marginalized for many generations now standing up to the dominant powers. I am speaking about people who normally have been very silent, afraid to speak up, resurrected into action that will bring about change. The Easter narrative will empower a once silent citizen to raise her voice and ask why Wells Fargo Bank refuses to pay janitorial and maintenance staff a living wage, while receiving incomprehensible tax benefits. The Easter narrative will strengthen citizens to question why Carnival Cruise Lines is getting special benefits from the Florida legislation while not paying taxes because they are registered in Panama. The Easter narrative will lead people to question why our elected leaders are eager to step on their teachers, firefighters and small business owners and reluctant to make corporations pay their fair share. Easter will resurrect people by giving them new strength to stand up and demand the dominant powers to change.
So if you have mistaken Easter to be about bunnies laying eggs and about feel-good songs, listen carefully and you will see that Easter is calling us to do much more. We are being called to stand up to the powers of the corporate empire and change the wrongful policies that perpetuate the stark inequality that has marked Florida and the United States. We are to spread the message of hope so communities may unite to change unfair practices that exploit the poor and downtrodden. This Easter we may be in church feeling good about the love of God, but please know that we are not to remain there. Take that love and turn it into action so all people, regardless of their economic or social plight, may enjoy their pursuit of happiness in a nation that is constitutionally called to provide opportunities for all people.