Unlike other major Christian holy-days like Christmas, Epiphany and Annual Conference, Easter has a wide berth on the calendar and can arrive in the preliminary days of bone-chilling spring or much later to the fanfare of scorching heat.
There are, of course, reasons for this floating Easter – most of them having something to do with the lunar calendar and the arrival of the Jewish Passover. Additionally, Easter usually falls inside the school’s spring break, which means that half the choir will be at Disney World and the pastor will be saddled with preparing a dilly of a sermon for the huge Easter crowd that believes that resurrection has something to do with a free continental breakfast.
But Easter floats because our spiritual ancestors knew that resurrection wasn’t your normal, every-day experience. Unlike many other Christian celebrations where we just show up and sing in B-flat, Easter demands more attention and preparation. It can happen any time.
We might, for example, discover that Christ was raised back in February when the world was covered in snow, but we saw Christ in that kid who lit the altar candles for the first time. Or we might discover that Christ was raised mid-June, during Vacation Bible School, when a new family showed up with a box of Capri Sun and a sleeve of Oreo cookies. Or we might have seen Christ walking around in that nursing home in August.
Easter floats, and it’s one of the reasons why the church has insisted that each Sunday is Easter (and why Sundays are excluded from the somber mood of Lent). Easter is all over the place, and yet the church has attempted for centuries to confine it to the building, to keep it indoors and out of sight so that the neighbors don’t think we’ve gone completely bonkers believing that life is stronger than death or that there really is hope for the world.
Easter floats so that people have to guess when Jesus was raised, or how he was raised, or what resurrection means.
Each year we have to guess where Easter is going to fall on the calendar. It could be very early, or very late. It might arrive as anticipated, or unexpectedly. It could be at sunrise or sunset. And sometimes strange people show up looking for a donut but depart believing that they have seen the risen Lord.
Easter floats because God is busting out all over and because pastors need a job. I’ve been told Easter is why we preach and what we preach. And if not for Easter, that there wouldn’t be a church at all. Which just goes to show you …
Todd Outcalt lives among the resurrection people of Calvary UMC in Brownsburg, Ind. and writes all manner of Easter goodies. His most recent books are He Said/She Said (with Michelle Knight) and $5 Youth Ministry. In addition to this column, he contributes regularly to a variety of other magazines such as YouthWorker, Preaching, and Ministry Matters, and he blogs daily at calvarybrownsburg.blogspot.com and toddoutcalt.blogspot.com.