Is God Dead?

Today is the holiest day on the Christian calendar – Easter. It is a holiday that celebrates the resurrection of life; Jesus Christ, the son of God, died on the cross for the sins of the world. The secular version of Easter involves bunnies and Easter egg hunts which in Michigan is complicated by the presence of snow. Easter is also the symbolic beginning of spring which makes everyone optimistic about the weather and life in general. I always had mixed feelings about Easter while growing up. I loved the chocolate and the ham, but the church services just didn’t pique my interests. Sure, the flowers and the choir were a magnificent sight to behold, but I didn’t really understand why the pews were filled to the brim. The philosophy of Easter was complicated for me because I didn’t have a good grasp of what it meant to suffer. My parents did an excellent job of sheltering me and protecting me from the horrors of the world. It wasn’t until I went to college that I reexamined the importance of this holiday. My eyes were opened during my Senior Seminar class which focused on the three days of Easter.

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Good Friday is a misnomer because it was the darkest day in the history of the world. Jesus died by excruciating crucifixion on Good Friday and for all intents and purposes – God was dead. People don’t like to think of Good Friday like this, but it is entirely accurate – Jesus was both man and God – His death was the death of both God and the Son. This was the ultimate sacrifice, and for two days, the disciples of Jesus were in a complete state of darkness. All their hopes for the future were gone, and the man they had thought was their savior was gone. We are fortunate to know the end of the story; Jesus rose from the dead, and the world was changed forever – God is not only alive but interconnected to us through that sacrifice.

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To truly appreciate Easter I believe we must understand suffering. We must enter the skin of the disciples on that Friday and Saturday. Unfortunately, we enter that skin way too often even after knowing about the resurrection on Sunday. We live our lives many times as if God were dead – trying to be masters of our own universe; hope and faith are absent more times than we would like to admit. It is for this reason that pews on Easter are filled. People understand suffering and want to feel the mighty power of the resurrection – in their hearts, they know God is alive. So this Easter you need to make a decision whether God is dead or alive. Do you want to live your life trying to be your own god? Do you want to live your life as if there is no one looking out for you? I am tired of trying to control my little universe – I want to give my worries to the Creator of the actual universe. So it’s your decision, Friday or Sunday, dead or alive. I have a postcard on my desk that says “God is here with you Jon!” If you are reading this, know that God is with you right now

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“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. …” Mathew 6:25-34

So this Easter really contemplate the beginning, middle, and end of the story; the end, in this case, is a happy one with an essential sequel. So is God dead? For me, I know God is alive, and I hope you feel the same way in your heart. Happy Easter.

5 thoughts on “Is God Dead?

  1. Have you ever been to the services of the Easter Triduum? They are the most elaborate of the year and highlight the mysteries:

    Holy Thursday: Highlights institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood. Washing of the feet. Ends with a procession of the body and blood of Christ to an altar of repose. Everything is removed from the sanctuary as this will be the last Mass until Easter.

    Good Friday: Part 1, the priest enters and prostrates before the unadorned altar. Then the entire Passion narrative from the Gospel of John. All kneel in silence when our Savior breathes his last. After the Gospel, there are solemn prayers for the conversion of the world. Part 2, the veneration of the Cross. The priest enters the Church with a Crucifix and chants “This is the wood of the Cross on which our Savior died” and all respond “Come let us adore.” After doing this three times, all the people come to the front to make an act of veneration to the Cross which saved us. (Usually they kiss the Cross, but I was in Germany one year and people would come up an offer incense.) Part 3, receiving the Eucharist. Since there is no Mass until Easter, the consecrated bread from the night before is brought out and this is received by everyone. After a final prayer, the ministers leave in silence.

    Easter Vigil (After dark, on Holy Saturday): Lots of things…definitely the highlight of the year! Starts outside with a fire from which the Paschal Candle is lit, and then all enter the dark Church behind the one holding the candle. Everyone’s candle is lit from this one as “Light of Christ” is chanted. Then an ancient hymn is sung about the blessed night which witnessed the Resurrection. Then come the many readings of God’s promises (as many as 8, with Psalms intervening) and culminating in the singing of Alleluia (which has not been sung for 40 days) and the Gospel of the Resurrection. Then come baptisms and confirmation, renewal Christian promises, blessing of water and sprinkling, and finally the celebration of the Eucharist. I recommend going to a larger church for this (I went to the Cathedral in Detroit one year) so that you are more likely to see people entering the Church–it is truly a wonderful sight!

    I’m sure I left out many things, but it is really something to experience. I’m not sure how Protestants do it, but for the Catholic and Orthodox the ritual involved goes back millenia and truly make present the mystery celebrated. Before attending these myself (I had never done Easter Vigil until high school), I never quite had a strong sense of Easter’s importance. God bless!

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