It’s the Monday after Easter. As we face the days ahead, we will encounter the reality of daily life, which seems to have been suspended in the drama of Holy Week.
We wake up today to find that the chocolate eggs are melting. The jellybeans are already stale. The lilies are wilting. The pastel decorations are falling off the wall. And, though we have lots of leftovers still to eat, we’re already sick of ham. The surge of emotions we experienced over the past few days — from the dread of Maundy Thursday to the grief of Good Friday to the despair of Holy Saturday to the elation of Easter Sunday — is ebbing.
Resurrection is already slipping into routine.
Today we question what place Easter has in our lives going forward. Is there meaning beyond observing a liturgical holiday? Is there a message that we should contemplate in the days ahead or, like our Easter outfits, will this chapter of Jesus’ life hang in our closets until we revisit it next spring?
This year during Lent I thought a lot about the Gospel of John. Starting in chapter 13, John uses the following five chapters to describe the final day before Jesus’ death. In these chapters, we read the final words of Jesus to his disciples — and the word that stands out above them all is the word “love.”
In the John 1-12, the word “love” appears six times. In John 13-17, on the last night of Jesus’ life, he uses the word “love” 31 times.
We tend to pay close attention to dying peoples’ last words — and Jesus’ words are no exception. The fact that in his remaining hours, he repeated “love” over and over and over again should get our attention — and change how we live in the post-Easter world.
Jesus said that his followers would be people who revel in the truth that they are loved by God, and who are identified by the radical love they have for each other and the world.
Love. That’s it.
It’s that simple.
It’s that hard.
Because on the Monday after Easter, we must confess that we have not been a people who are characterized by love.
We have not been “one” as Jesus and the Father are one. Instead, we’ve been divided by our differences, splintering over insignificant details and splitting over petty points of doctrine.
We have not been people of peace. Instead, we’ve supported wars in our hearts and in our culture and in our world.
We have not been identified by the radical, unconditional love we show to everyone. Instead, we’ve become known by which political party we vote for, which laws we fight for or against, which sins we publicly decry, which enemies we rail against, which country’s innocent citizens do or do not deserve protection.
Instead of being emboldened by God’s divine love — which the Bible says “casts out fear” — we’ve used our faith to become more phobic than anyone. In the name of Jesus, we’ve justified our fear of non-Christian media, non-Christian faith traditions, non-Christian lingo, non-Christian books, non-Christian….well….everything.
Instead of treating our enemies with extravagant love that gladly goes the extra mile, we’ve fought to own every inch of the moral high ground.
Instead of blessing our enemies, we have mocked them.
Instead of praying for people with whom we disagree, we have pounded out Facebook rants and retweeted sarcastic memes.
Instead of revolutionizing the world with love, we have sought to win elections with half-truths and obscene amounts of money.
Instead of becoming humble, we have become entitled.
Instead of taking our cues from the Word of God, we’ve held up the United States Constitution as the key document that governs and guides us.
On the Monday after Easter, the biggest contrast we find is not the dramatic emotions of Holy Week versus the muted emotions of the everyday world. The biggest contrast is the way we live versus the way Jesus asked us to live. It’s the fact that our love is to Jesus’ love what grape soda is to wine.
In the light of Christ’s resurrection, we repent of the ways in which we have cheapened God’s unfathomable grace and ignored his unconquerable love.
And in the space between now and next Easter, we embrace the opportunity to allow ourselves and our world to be transformed in the undying, unfaltering light of that love.