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“We are Easter people and Alleluia is our song!”
1,980 years ago Jesus of Nazareth was killed by crucifixion on Friday. Acts 2:20 references a “moon of blood” which seems to reference a lunar eclipse which occurred on April 3, 33. If this is reference related to the eclipse, Jesus died on April 3, AD 33.
Had that been the end of the Jesus story, you never would have heard the phrase, “we are Easter people.”
During the Easter season, I’ve heard Christians of all denominations say, “we are Easter people!” I become curious when I hear diverse groups of people saying the same thing. Where did the words come from? Is it something someone started on Twitter? I had to find out.
The first use of, “we are Easter people”, seems to have happened about 1600 years ago. In the early days of Christianity, Augustine of Hippo proclaimed: “We are Easter people and alleluia is our song!”
As an aside, Augustine of Hippo (aka St. Augustine) was the church’s first solid theologian. He lived during the late 300’s AD and is responsible for formulating the Christian doctrine of Original Sin and for articulating the first doctrine of Just War.
Back to April 3, 33. Good Friday was a sad day for everyone who loved Jesus. Not only did they grieve his death, they grieved the loss of all He had represented to them about their hope for the future.
They also endured the emotional trauma of how he was killed. They saw it. Jesus, a gentle man, was physically beaten and tortured before he ever touched the cross. His family and friends watched him carry a cross beam, his own instrument of death, to the place were criminals were executed. They watched him bleed when soldiers nailed his hands and feet to the cross. They saw the man they loved racked with pain when his cross was tilted upward, its base slipped into a hole and then they heard it thud upright into place. They watched people make fun of him and taunt him as the weight of his body pulled against the nails.
Crucifixion caused a slow, painful death by trauma and asphyxiation. The victim became too weak over time to breathe. Jesus’ loved ones endured the long trauma of watching his crucifixion.
Now here’s something that fascinates me about his crucifixion: it was the standard way for the government to execute a criminal.
Today we use lethal injection. Then, crucifixion was the approved method. When I was child I felt sorry for Jesus, not so much because he died, but because he was crucified. Sunday school teachers made his crucifixion seem like something especially horrendous and reserved just for him. I remember when I first realized there was nothing unique about Jesus’ form of death. That simple awareness shifted my focus from sadness about the way Jesus died to what his death actually meant.
What made Jesus’ death unique was not that he was crucified. Again, that was pretty standard stuff in the Roman empire.
What made Jesus’ death unique was that he did not stay dead! He returned to life. That was the new thing! And the power of His resurrection is what makes us Easter people!
So now, we’re back to “Easter people”. The contrast between the death of Jesus on the first Good Friday and His return to life days later on the first Easter Sunday serves as a perfect metaphor for our ministry to children and families. (You knew I would get here.)
Our children have lived with trauma. For many of them, everyday was like a bad Good Friday. Even when safe at the Home, they live with fear. They protect themselves by staying out of close relationships. They fight quickly to protect themselves from small offenses. They run to get away from conflict, to feel free, to feel in control of their own destiny. Some have been raped, some have been prostituted, some have watched loved ones murdered. You know what our kids have experienced. I blogged about this trauma on the Home’s blog at: https://lumcfs.org/traumatic-childhood-events/
Some of our kids are suicidal or consider suicide because the traumas they have experienced are so dark they feel like death. Wrongly, they believe a tomb is the only place of peace.
What does it mean to be an Easter person when you work with a child who feels the trauma of Good Friday? It means you know the rest of the story! You know the power of Life!
For every evil done to a child, for every pain felt by a child, for every trauma perpetrated against a child, for every fear a child carries, there is reason for hope. There is reason to continue life, pursue healing, look for peace, and join the living!
However dark life seems, Easter is the reason for hope. We do not fear the darkness of trauma or devastation. Ours is difficult work and we all have different roles in the process, but because we are Easter people we can join with children in the lonely darkness of their trauma and lead them out of those dark places into light! For many of our kids, that is the new thing!
Rick Wheat, President and Chief Executive Officer
Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services