Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day,
Didst make thy triumph over death and sin:
And having harrow’d hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin,
And grant that we for whom thou diddest die,
Being with thy dear blood clean wash’d from sin,
May live for ever in felicity.
And that thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love thee for the same again:
And for thy sake, that all like dear didst buy,
With love may one another entertain.
So let us love, dear love, like as we ought,
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.
–Edmund Spenser (c. 1552 – 1599)
The last few weeks I’ve been preaching hither and yon across the country, sharing in Easter joy with congregations of various shapes and sizes. This year, thanks to this website and to my travel schedule, I’ve had a very fulsome opportunity to reflect on and to celebrate Easter.
Of course, it’s commonplace for preachers (including this one) to point out that there is a wondrous mystery lurking behind the lilies and jellybeans. The whole point is that God’s life defeated death, that hope defeated fear. But, like a young child, let’s ask an obvious question. Why? Why did God raise Jesus? Why did Jesus do all the things he did and say all the things he said?
Edmund Spenser gets it right. It’s about love. The problem is that “love” has been hijacked by Valentine’s Day, romance novels, and big budget movies. Easter love is nothing like any of that.
Easter love is fearless. Easter love is seemingly impossible. It is relentlessly hopeful. It isn’t fair and balanced. It is grace-filled, not transactional. Easter love changes lives. It changes everything.
Easter love, the kind of love that Jesus taught us, is how we are meant to live. God harrowed hell itself so that we might be freed from captivity, so that we might live as people of hope. The why of Easter is, I think, at least as amazing as the what and the how of Easter.
What would our church look like if we actually practiced Easter love? How might our world change? How might our own lives change?