N. T. Wright on Easter

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[The following is an excerpt from N. T. Wright’s Surprised By Hope.]

“…Many churches now hold Easter vigils, as the Orthodox church has always done, but in many cases they are…too tame by half. Easter is about the wild delight of God’s creative power…we ought to shout Alleluias instead of murmuring them; we should light every candle in the building instead of only some; we should give every man, woman, child, cat, dog, and mouse in the place a candle to hold; we should have a real bonfire; and we should splash water about as we renew our baptismal vows. Every step back from that is a step toward an ethereal or esoteric Easter experience, and the thing about Easter is that it is neither ethereal nor esoteric. It’s about the real Jesus coming out of the real tomb and getting God’s real new creation under way.

But my biggest problem starts on Easter Monday. I regard it as absurd and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent, pondering what it means, preaching about self-denial, being at least a little gloomy, and then bringing it all to a peak with Holy Week, which in turn climaxes in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday…and then, after a rather odd Holy Saturday, we have a single day of celebration.

…Easter week itself ought not to be the time when all the clergy sigh with relief and go on holiday. It ought to be an eight-day festival, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before, with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom?

…we should be taking steps to celebrate Easter in creative new ways: in art, literature, children’s games, poetry, music, dance, festivals, bells, special concerts, anything that comes to mind. This is our greatest festival. Take Christmas away, and in biblical terms you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else. Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity; as Paul says, you are still in your sins…

…if Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. Champagne for breakfast again—well, of course. Christian holiness was never meant to be merely negative…. The forty days of the Easter season, until the ascension, ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving. You may be able to do it only for six weeks, just as you may be able to go without beer or tobacco only for the six weeks of Lent. But if you really make a start on it, it might give you a sniff of new possibilities, new hopes, new ventures you never dreamed of. It might bring something of Easter into your innermost life. It might help you wake up in a whole new way. And that’s what Easter is all about.”

[And just because it’s awesome, here’s Rev. Wright to sing you a song. Happy Easter. Now get off the internet and go celebrate!]

N.T. Wright Sings Bob Dylan from Thomas McKenzie on Vimeo.


11 Comments

  1. Anne Marie

    Let’s raise a glass and celebrate. Hallelujah, the tomb is empty and the stories are true. What a liberating thought.

  2. Rick Davis

    @ Thomas

    Last year our church did an evening party/hymn sing each day of Easter week, but we had each parish in our church do its own parties and various people from the parishes volunteer to host the parties in their own houses. That way the pastor didn’t have to do any of the planning/administrating. Maybe an idea for future years to make a week of parties feasible.

  3. Jerome

    I am for it! This reminded me of this excerpt from Baxter Kruger’s little book, “The Parable of the Dancing God” :

    It has been said that while the Bible speaks often about heaven, it does not
    actually tell us much about what heaven is going to be like. Well, if you want
    to know what heaven is like, here it is. It is a party. It is a feast. It is a
    celebration thrown by God the Father and He is the lead dancer. Heaven is
    about being at the Father’s party and being the celebrated guest of honor, in
    spite of your disqualifying failure.
    The first of these three parables says that there is “joy in heaven” (v. 7,
    NASB) over one sinner’s rescued life. In the second parable the angels of God
    throw a party when a sinner gets the point and turns from his nothingness to
    the Father. In the third parable there is no mention of joy in heaven, no
    mention of angels throwing a party, there is only this wonderful picture of the
    dancing God. There is only this vivid image of the Father running, embracing,
    and kissing this fallen son, and commanding a great celebration.
    That is heaven. It is the excitement of God; it is the Father’s dancing joy,
    exploding into the greatest party in history.
    Is that not a wonderful picture of what church is to be like here and now–
    the joy of God taking shape in our hearts and producing a celebration? We are
    into “models” today when we talk about the church. Well, here is a great
    model: the partying church.
    Is this not the very heart of evangelism? Should it not be that when people,
    like the older brother (v. 25), come in from work, they hear music and dancing
    in the church, and want to know what this is all about?
    Is this not the very heart of our mission? Are we not called to be a
    celebrating people who are so excited and filled with the grace and joy of our
    Father that the celebration gets the attention of the world?

  4. Ed Weymouth

    The only time I encountered Easter Monday as an official observance was when I lived in North Carolina from 1982 to 2003. It seems the state elected officials decreed it to be a State Holiday so a baseball game between North Carolina University and North Carolina State University would have attendance. As far as I know, it remains a Sate Holiday in 2016.

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