April 02, 2015
When I was ten years old, my brother, mom, and I went back to Greece for a visit. I was excited to meet grandparents, aunts, uncles, and a host of other relatives for the first time. We arrived shortly before what I learned was the most significant holiday in Greece. Pascha, aka, Easter.
I don't know if it became a bigger affair because we were there but the family seemed to spare no opportunity to make this a memorable experience. Especially my papous, aka, grandfather. He took to my younger brother and I as only a grandfather can with two young fans at his heels.
With the Easter celebration a few days away, he asked us if we wanted to tag along as he went to pick up supplies. Soon we were taking in the sights and smells of an open market, a pleasure I can't resist to this very day. My grandfather was stocking up for our Easter dinner and by the looks of it, we were going to eat like kings. If there was one thing my brother and I learned early, food and Greeks go together like a hand and glove.
The day was crowned by a visit to a farm. There, we entered into what I remember as a large fenced in pen with sheep running everywhere. My brother and I had never been in an environment like this before and within minutes we were enjoying the animals all around us. All of that was about to change.
My grandfather, with a grin on his face, asked us if there was a particular sheep that we liked. Without any hint to what lay behind the question, we gleefully pointed one out before we realized we had just pronounced a death sentence on the animal. What happened next is forever etched in my mind.
My grandfather called over one of the handlers who promptly dragged the animal before my brother and I and slit its throat. It was only then that we realized that we had just ordered the main dish for Easter! Call our actions naive, but we had yet to reach our teen years when we become all knowing and powerful. To say that we were shocked would be putting it mildly.
The gripping reality of watching something bleed out and die in front of you has a way of impacting a young mind. As much as it jolted me, nothing prepared me for my grandfather's response. His incredulity to our reactions was only matched by his sudden awareness of what we had just experienced. He, for whatever reason, assumed that our life in Canada had easily equipped us for such mundane, everyday necessities of life.
His surprise aside, he asked us what on earth our life in Canada was preparing us for? A life of leisure? What would we ever gain as an appreciation of life if we could not conceive of the reality of death or sacrifice? His was a lesson I never soon forgot. Easter that year with my family became one of those life-shaping experiences. You know, the kind that sets you on a life trajectory where you view the world through the lens of events that have impacted you deeply.
Gathered together with my Greek family, I heard the themes of death and sacrifice. But prominently and more vividly celebrated was this theme of resurrection. Though my young mind had just been introduced to death in its most pragmatic form, I was also introduced to a hope that lies beyond it.
Unbeknown to me at the time was my first real introduction to the Gospel. So every Easter I find my mind wandering back to that sunny Greek day where in the midst of remembering and celebrating the resurrection of Christ I got my first real taste of the tension between death and hope.
Besides seeing the sacrifice, death, and resurrection of Christ through the eyes of my younger self, I've noticed another residual from my childhood experience. The same incredulity that my grandfather displayed that day now resides in me. It surfaces every time I come across an attitude that barely acknowledges the sacrifice of Christ or considers the whole Easter thing as nothing more than a time for chocolate, bunnies, eggs, and special outfits.
I know we live in a world fraught with diverse thoughts, cultures, and traditions, but the loss of Easter upon the social conscience of our society is one of the stark reminders of our collective plight. Many churches will be filled this weekend, and some will have people who do not regularly attend.
So, whatever role you play in ministry I pray that the wonder of the resurrection will resonate through you as an active witness. Thanks as well to those of you who read this blog for the faithful work you do for the sake of the Kingdom of Christ. Happy Easter, from me to you!
But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross. Bono
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