We had a great Easter. Family, food, and a joyful Sunday celebration!
Meanwhile, on the American side of the planet, we have Mike Huckabee. Huckabee is a former governor and presidential candidate who has transitioned too easily into his current role of conservative media personality on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). He is also an ordained Southern Baptist minister who talks about God occasionally.
He made news during Holy Week because of his wars with some of his political foes on his (governor’s) Twitter account. He tweeted fifteen times during the four most significant days of the Christian year and not one, not even one of the tweets referred even randomly to Jesus or Resurrection. Not one. Yes, I place him in the top 5% of the most annoying people I have never met.
Did I mention he’s a Baptist minister?
And I wonder: if Mike Huckabee (and people like him) are Christians, how can I be? If you read this blog regularly you know my opinion of fundamentalist Christianity. So how can I describe myself as being in this tribe when I have so little in common with so many? Seriously, I don’t know how to do that.
I absolutely believe that Jesus was most outspoken against elite, religious leaders who were in bed with the political power of the Empire – the Mike Huckabee types. If you read the Bible with eyes to see it, politics and faith are actually enemies as well as a major biblical theme.
Unfortunately most of our religious and political discourse is about winning or being more correct than the other tribe. I do it myself here in this blog. I have opinions on just about everything – sometimes agreeable, sometimes contrary.
Yet in the end, all that matters is living my life faithfully. How? Well, by loving God and neighbour. I am called to treat Mike Huckabee with respect – to love him even. Why? Because he is loved and died for by Jesus and he has been granted the opportunity to have an Easter life.
This past Sunday as Christians celebrated the life-death-life of the Easter story, terrorists in Sri Lanka targeted luxury hotels and Christian churches with a series of coordinated bombings, killing 290 people. Sri Lanka continues in a national state of emergency as of this writing.
When bombings or any other crimes against people happen, suddenly the only things that matter are life and death. Politics, power and being more correct pale when we’re suddenly confronted with life and death.
However as I watch the confusion and sense the pain of the victim’s families, a beautiful irony creeps into my thoughts and I can’t shake it: the victims will live again.
Someone has said that people in ancient times knew what dead was. In other words there was no question in the minds of anyone in Jerusalem that Jesus was dead. In a very short time a handful of believers had begun telling (and dying for) a story about that same person coming to life again. To add to the craziness, the witnesses proclaimed that Jesus was a god-man who had now returned to heaven while also still mysteriously with them.
Not a believable story to tell outsiders and an unlikely talking point for a new religion.
Yet that is exactly what they did.
St Paul wrote about the natural reluctance of some in his day to emphasize the difficult idea of Resurrection:
“But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 (NLT)
He sounds convinced, doesn’t he?
Christianity was birthed in a time and place where violence was used just as the terrorists in Sri Lanka used it. In the minds of most, threat of death brings control over others but what the ancient Romans and modern terrorists intended as the ultimate weapon loses its leverage when Christians are targeted. For we who believe in Easter, every death is future hope.
Don’t get me wrong – death is an evil and horrific event and there is a mountain of pain to be endured to process it. Our loved ones will pass away no matter what we do. Like everyone else I too will die. And at that moment of death, Jesus’ defeat of it will be my only reality.
Ultimately we believe that Jesus absorbed and overcame death. It’s powerless now: for me, for you, for Mike H. That’s the amazing hope and beauty of Easter. We can live again.
Paska is a traditional Ukrainian sweet bread that our family enjoys at Easter time and it is prepared for us each year with perfection – thanks, Cindy! It is based on a recipe handed down by her maternal great-grandmother who escaped violence in Russia at the time of the Revolution.
Paska means Easter, a word that in turn has roots in new things like sunrises (German) and spring (Latin). The bread itself has many variations with a white and/or yellow coloured body whose yeast causes it to rise, symbolic of Jesus’ Resurrection. In this version the top is spread with an amazing cream cheese icing to symbolize … um … er … enjoyment!
You see, Paska was born in a dangerous world, created by those who understood very well how close death was. Yet year after year their skilled hands mixed the yeasty dough and raised a symbolic cake to remember that death was defeated by the Resurrection of Jesus.
The truth is paska delicious.