This Easter Sunday, I celebrate and I mourn.
I celebrate the life that Jesus makes available, both for me and for people all over the world.
My most meaningful experience in Israel was in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Kidron Valley and the Garden of Gethsemane. As our group took pictures at the peak, we heard music playing in the distance. We turned and saw a procession coming down the street. Trumpets blared and drums beat as the people waved palm branches. It was Palm Sunday! But they were celebrating on Saturday, since the Israeli workweek is from Sunday to Thursday. We drew closer to see who it was. The people wore casual, everyday clothing, although several of the women wore saris. They were a procession of Indian Catholics.
Our tour guide said, “2000 years ago, who would have thought that a procession of Indian Catholics would be here? So you see, Jerusalem and Israel are important for people all around the world.”
We walked in with the worshippers to the Church of All Nations, a beautiful chapel next to the Garden of Gethsemane. The church was packed full of worshippers. I stood there and marveled that even though I could not communicate with the people there, I could still worship together with them. The beautiful story of Easter is that through Jesus, God breaks down the wall of sin and death that separates us from Him and separates us from each other. We declare that death has no power any longer, for it has been swallowed in resurrection power.
And yet I mourn, for this Easter, we still live in the shadow of death.
Earlier today, a Taliban splinter group attacked a park in Lahore, Pakistan. killing at least 60 people and injuring 300. The jihadists claimed that they targeted Christians, who were enjoying an Easter picnic at the park. Many among the dead were children.
The attack in Lahore joins other recent attacks in Turkey, Iraq, and Libya, along with the larger attacks in Yemen, Belgium, Nigeria, and Ivory Coast. And this is just in the last two weeks. And this is just violent terrorist attacks. We see children poisoned by lead, families ripped apart by drug addiction, gang violence scarring whole communities.
What is the story of Easter in times like this? The story of Easter cannot be a trite or simplistic tale that wipes away these tragedies through magical thinking. The story of Easter is that the beautiful and wonderful kingdom of God has collided with a broken and dark world. The kingdom has won. And yet those who follow that kingdom must recognize that the world is dark indeed.
I don’t have the answers, and I really need to start reading for class tomorrow. I guess all I want to say that today, it’s OK to celebrate, and it’s OK to mourn. I will hope and pray that the better world that has been promised, the better world that is here, that this better world will come soon.