After a recent meeting of the Forum, several of us were standing around chatting. The subject of Easter came up.
Al Bradley, who works part-time driving a school bus, asked several of his “charges” what they thought of Easter. One child responded that he/she was part of a belief system that doesn’t celebrate holidays (or “holy days,” as I like to call them).
He then asked another student, originally from Jamaica, what the coming Sunday meant to her. “Easter!” she replied, without hesitation.
“And what does Easter mean to you?” Al inquired, eagerly.
“Chocolate!” she answered.
Well, yes, Easter is chocolate…and a whole lot more. Foundationally, it is the birth of a new kind of freedom, a freedom born of radical love.
In Bible Study we just finished reading Paul’s letter to the Galatians. In this closely argued epistle, Paul seeks to establish the unsurpassing value of the Cross. It is the Cross alone which had given him a new kind of freedom in God, one he’d never known before, even while he was serving as a Pharisee.
He contrasts this freedom of the Cross to the Law. Perhaps an easy way to understand it is to think of being in a relationship. The freedom born of a loving relationship is not the product of obeying a list of obligations to the other person, as if that alone constitutes love.
Rather, it is the love itself which compels us willingly to serve the other in freedom. One conceivably could do everything “right,” going down the list of duties and obligations, while betraying no love whatsoever for the other.
But true love introduces a new impetus to do the “good.” It is accomplished not by checking off a list of things we’re supposed to do, but by being moved to celebrate the joy of our love in action.
Paul’s detractors feared that a believer’s new relationship with God by means of the Cross would produce lawlessness and chaos. Paul’s argument is that the opposite is true. Knowing the existential power of God’s mercy and grace, born of God’s incomparable, inconceivable love, ushers forth the sweetest manifestations of selfless service.
The Cross frees us to see, in real terms, that love is the only real basis for life. Accepting the gift of God’s love thus frees us to new heights and new forms of blessedness and peace.
None of which, of course, precludes enjoying a chocolate bunny or two!
Grace and peace,
Thomas C. Leinbach, Pastor