thoughts on Easter and similar traditions

<I posted this over at simplechurchseattle.com, but thought I’d post it here as well for my own records.>

“Hey gang, what should we do this Easter?”  It’s a question that evokes a variety of different responses among those we gather with.  Here’s mine:

There was a time when I thought it was one of the more exciting Christian traditions, and my heart was pure about it.  I love the beginnings of Spring, I love early mornings, and the triumph of Jesus beating the enemy at his own game, getting up from being dead – it’s the best!

And it’s not that I no longer value those things, but I’ve come to a different place with respect to religious, man-made traditions.  They are so hollow, empty, dead – like the ash in a fireplace.  They’re all used up, there’s nothing in them that fires me up anymore.  After so many years of perpetuating the traditions of man, and the religious businesses of a church subculture, thinking these were things “ordained” from heaven, I loathe to lift even a pinky finger to do them anymore.  At least this one.  And I don’t want to encourage the thought in my children that performing the obligation of a religious tradition pleases our loving Father in heaven.

Parenthetical insert:  Like many, I grew up thinking Easter (and Christmas) were holidays all about Christ.  We know now that both actually have pagan roots (for more, google the three words together: pagan christian easter).  Pagan roots alone hasn’t been a big issue for me – so what if we take something with pagan roots and turn it into an opportunity to worship Jesus and the one true God!? 

But the biggest harm that I see from these holidays is that so many of us who seek to follow Jesus still feel trapped by thinking God is somehow pleased/appeased by our observance of these religious rituals, and we have to do SOMEthing “spiritual” to commemorate this religious holiday, or somehow we haven’t measured up to being a true follower of Jesus.  And how does that color our entire relationship with him?  Or said another way, what are the roots of this sense of obligation in us, and what would be Jesus’ response to it?

So for me, hearing the question, “what should we do this Easter?” evokes, not a quest for the right answer, but a fresh realization that it’s the wrong question.  It’s simply one I don’t hear the Lord asking (not among the NT church, not among many who’s relationship with God I know of and respect, not in my own heart), so I’m not inclined to seek an answer for it.  The only redeeming value I see in this question is if it becomes a spring board to honest thought and discussion about how this and similar religious practices may still have us enslaved, and lead us to him afresh for the freedom he so desires for us.  My view is that we shouldn’t waste another ounce of time, energy, or resources coddling or even pacifying a man-made, religious tradition that holds no life for us; in other words, that God is not filling with his life.

Of course, I’m sure there are others who enjoy the traditions of this holiday and don’t have concerns about enslavement to it.  I’d like to think we can find creative ways of grace and freedom to allow each other to do as we please with traditions of man.  Having the variety helps to communicate the bigger picture of what’s a core essential of the faith, and what’s optional.

6 Replies to “thoughts on Easter and similar traditions”

  1. I was thinking today about Passover, and how Messiah Jesus is shown in the Seder traditions. I love remembering how His coming was foretold in prophecy, and how the feasts of Israel foreshadow Him. It fills me with joy to recall that I am connected onto the long chain of faithful God-lovers stretching through the generations of man. Bob Bennett has a beautiful song about this, “Jesus In Our Time”:
    “Countless legions of the faithful crossing every generation,
    hand to shoulder, in an unbroken line
    Lead us to this Sabbath morning: we humbly count ourselves among them, to seek and find the face of Jesus in our time.
    An imperfect congregation full of folly and of doubt, we presume to ask our questions then we wrestle with their finding out…
    We break the bread and pass the cup, and try to bear each other up to live the mystery of Jesus in our time.
    Oh Jesus, oh Jesus, Jesus in our time.
    There are those who are among us who believe they are not worthy–we offer you the Word of Life and bid you come & dine
    Upon the mercy we have tasted and the love given so freely
    Come take your place at table now with Jesus in our time.
    Oh Jesus, oh Jesus, Jesus in our time.
    And as He promised, so we proclaim: He will be among us as we gather in His name
    To heal the brokenhearted, to ease our troubled minds–
    we want to know You, follow You, Jesus in our time.”

    Haven’t thought of that song in ages. Glad I did.
    We don’t pursue “easter” stuff. We have celebrated a Seder a couple of times over the years, and I always enjoy having dinner with family or friends to remember afresh the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ, since we don’t do the all-together thing very often. I like to give my kids something treat-like just ’cause I love them–which I do randomly as well, such a parent thing! No bondage. Just joy that our Everlasting God loves us sooo much!

  2. Kelly! How delightful to hear from you, dear friend. I’m honored that you stopped by wiith comments. And yours bring a needed balance to this discussion.

    In the spirit of Seder, “On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ ” (Ex 13), I’ve taken up the practice now and then of telling stories around the dinner table of what God has done in my life, in our marriage before kids, to bring us out of our own “Egypts.”

    Thanks for pointing out the value of remembering the connection to our spiritual roots of the Israel nation. Reminds me of how we are now the spiritual decendants of Abraham. And thanks for the lovely reminder of Bob Bennett :-).

  3. The Lord has led me along an identical path to experience and conviction mirroring every jot and tittle of your post re Easter and similar traditions of men. What blessing to find His Spirit willing and working within a brother in such an affirming encouraging manner. Thank You, heavenly Father.

  4. I’m so with you in this disdain for man-made traditions such as Easter and Christmas. Although I find myself having to somewhat tip toe around these issues, as my dear hubby already thinks I’ve gone off the deep end with so much of what’s now in my heart, in my understanding of Papa. I long for the day that he and I see eye to eye on such matters.

    There’s that and the constant battle I deal with concerning the expectations of extended family when it comes to celebrating these “grand” occasions together. What to do, when you’re the only one who doesn’t buy into it anymore?

    Hard as it is, I know He’s got my back, here too!

    I appreciate your heart, brother.

  5. Free – yes, to some degree I find myself “showing up” and kinda going through the motions a bit for the sake of others around me during these holidays. And maybe I’d retreat too much inside myself if not for that, so I benefit as well, who knows. I’m not comfortable with it all. Trying to sort it out a little further with each go’round. Thanks for sharing.

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