Last weekend, we celebrated.
It had stormed all week, but Sunday dawned clear and beautiful and the world felt new. There was a sense of excitement as we gathered together in the school gym.
(Ok. I’ll admit. This was, in part, due to the kids and their anticipation of the festivities to come. But only in part.)
We greeted each other with grins and with hope (“He is risen, indeed!”). We sang songs of triumph, declaring victory over sin and despair and death. We heard the old, familiar story and rejoiced in its truth.
After the service, the kids had their long-awaited egg hunt, swarming over the playground and through the grass to gather their treasures. And then we separated, with hugs and smiles, to gather with family for a meal and fellowship. We broke the bread and we drank the wine and we remembered and we gave thanks.
We came home, spent but grateful, tired but full of joy.
(And, for the sub-ten set among us, also full of candy.)
On our drive to church last week, Abby asked, “What do people who don’t believe in Jesus do on Easter?”
We answered as best we could, discussing those who hold different faiths and those who hold none at all. Our conversation seemed to satisfy her curiosity, though it only served to pique mine.
My questions have less to do with what you do on Easter if you don’t share my faith and more to do with what you think. What do you make of our songs and our sermons, our celebrations and our professions?
Do you think we’re crazy? Misguided? Naive?
If so, I get it.
In this modern scientific age, belief in an ancient deity seems outdated, superstitious, irrational, akin to professing allegiance to the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy.
There are days when I look at everything I profess to believe and the incredibility of it hits me anew. An all-powerful, all-knowing being who chooses to partner with fallible humans. A God become man who then dies and is raised again. A love that defies hatred, defies unbelief, defies apathy to accomplish the impossible.
When I take a step back from the familiarity of these stories I’ve heard all my life, I must admit, they sometimes seem too fantastic to believe.
A confession: it’s easier for me to think about the absurdity of the Christian story, to wonder about your response to it, than to think of your response to me.
When you hear me talk about Jesus, does it make sense to you? Or do you think of the times I’ve hurt you, the times I’ve let you down, and see me as a fraud?
If you reject the Christian faith, is it the story itself that causes you to turn away? Or is it those who proclaim it?
Once, on BibleProject‘s podcast, Tim Mackie observed that in his times of questioning, when Christianity seems too much to believe, it’s always Jesus who brings him back.
(At least, I’m fairly certain that’s where I heard it. But that might just be due to my habit of attributing any bit of wisdom about the Bible to that podcast.)
Whoever it was, his words stuck with me. Probably because I’ve found them to be true myself.
When my mind can’t wrap itself around the metaphysical and supernatural claims of my faith, I go back to the accounts of the Jewish man who walked the shores of Galilee two thousand years ago. I reread his teachings. I remember the way he healed, the way he lived, the way he loved. I do my best to set aside all the things that have become attached to his name throughout the centuries and I focus on him and him alone.
And somehow, once again, I believe.
If it’s the story itself that’s the sticking point, there’s a part of me that wants to offer you all the reasons apologetics can muster. I want to show you facts and figures, historical documents, the data gathered over the years by those who believe. I want to tell you that faith is not blind, that it can be rational.
If it’s the church that’s the problem, there’s a part of me that wants to rush to her defense. I want to share the times I was rescued and buoyed and loved by my own humble community of Christians. I want to tell you of the good I’ve seen people do, of the sacrifice and the service I’ve seen them exemplify, of the beauty and truth I’ve seen them live.
“You might have been wounded by others,” I want to say, “but have you met my people?”
And all of those words would be true.
Except this is also true: I, too, sometimes question. I, too, am sometimes struck by how absurd it all sounds. I, too, have a hard time wrapping my finite mind around the idea of an infinite God.
I will fail you. I will let you down. I will not always get it right. And, odds are, all of the wonderful people in my community will, too.
Sometimes, I’m terrified to claim the name of Christ, because I know how often I fail to live up to this calling I’ve received.
And so, if you’re considering whether this whole Jesus thing might be true, I beg you: please don’t look at me.
Look at him, instead.