As a teenager, I golfed and skied religiously on Sunday mornings. But I would never skip Easter Sunday. For some reason, I always had a soft spot towards Easter. Perhaps it was all that delicious chocolate. Maybe it was because my father would attend at Easter, giving up his golfing for one Sunday. I will never forget when my then agnostic father switched from golfing every Sunday to golfing every other Sunday in order to attend church. Since taking the Alpha Course four times, my dad has developed a strong personal faith.
My teenage memories of Easter Sunday are connected with a sense of joy. Unlike my atheist best friend, I never doubted the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. But I was emotionally disconnected from its reality. It was almost as if I did not believe in Easter. As a teenager, I became convinced that there was no life after death, and that nothing awaited me but extinction and returning to dust. I began to fear the power of death and the meaninglessness and emptiness of life. I even began to secretly wonder if life itself was worth living. When I came to personal faith at age 17, it was almost as if I had never heard of Jesus’ resurrection. I remember being astounded over the realization that by faith in Christ, I would live forever. I started wearing a button ‘Have a nice eternity’, something that would have made no sense to me just a few months earlier.
At the recent Greater Vancouver Festival of Hope, almost 2,000 people gave their lives to Christ after hearing a clear message of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Easter is at the very core of what it means to be a Christian, even more than Christmas, our other favorite festival. Even in our very complicated Canadian culture, Easter and Christmas are still deeply rooted in our self-identity and history as Canadians. I will never forget a Capilano University Philosophy professor who, though an atheist, invited me to speak in his class about evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. While initially skeptical, he became appalled by the religious and historical ignorance of some of his students. He commented that without reading the bible and literature like Paradise Lost, you could not really understand Canadian culture. The Easter story is deeply woven into our 150 years of Canadian history, something that we will be celebrating with Voices Together at the Pacific Coliseum on Canada Day.
In the past almost 37 years of ordained ministry, I have been privileged to take many funerals, now often called celebrations of life. Many people nowadays don’t have any services when they die. I find that rather sad, as it leaves people with limited ways to grieve. Others no longer use clergy as in the past. At most funerals that I take, there are many people sharing their memories of the deceased. No matter how well I know the deceased, I always learn much at the service and wish that I knew them better. My main contribution at funerals is to remind people of how Jesus conquered death and offered us rising life that would go on forever. I am totally convinced that life and love are stronger than death, and that Easter is more than just chocolate. God has given us in Jesus rising faith, hope, love and Life.
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