Herald JournalHerald Journal, March 21, 2005

Easter: 'it's victory over sin and death'

By Lynda Jensen

Chocolate bunnies and plastic Easter grass might be a sign of Easter, but the true meaning of this holiday should take center stage – and be the highlight of the year – for Christians, area pastors say.

For Christians, Easter is the observance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God.

Ten local pastors across several denominations noted that the true meaning of Easter is being eroded by commercialism, much the same as Christmas is.

“Yes, the true meaning of Easter has been lost – or should I say is being refocused to eggs and bunnies,” commented Pastor Daniel Runke of Albion Free Evangelical Church.

“There is a tendency in our culture to hype or commecialize celebrations,” agreed Pastor Derek Forseth of Blessed Hope Church.

Pastor David Sorensen of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cokato recounted a story about watching “Family Feud” on television, where players were challenged with the question “Name an activity that you might do on Easter.”

None of the answers pertained to Christianity, Sorensen noted. “They missed ‘go to church’ entirely,” he said.

“Bunnies are soft and fluffy and never force us to deal with reality,” Runke said.

“It’s like never having to go to the doctor. By not going, I might not ever learn about my terminal illness, but that doesn’t mean I will not die from the disease,” Runke said.

“But on the other hand, by going to the doctor and taking the medicine, I can begin the road to recovery,” Runke said.

“Easter is the most important event within the Christan Church,” observed Pastor Bob Rupprecht of St. John’s in Hollywood Township.

“As for the commercialism, in the secular world, they completely miss the true purpose of the day,” Rupprecht said. “But then as scripture says in Psalm 92:4-6

‘For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep! The ignorant man cannot know; the foolish cannot understand this.’”

“Passing fads, trendy practices, and catchy cliches don’t cut it,” commented Father Timothy Cloutier of the Church of St. Mary in Waverly.

“The proclamation that ‘Christ having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over him (Romans 6:9),’ is not only fundamental to the Easter message; it is the Easter message, and the reason we celebrate it,” Cloutier said.

So, what is the true meaning of Easter?

“Six simple words,” said Pastor Robert Hellmann of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Montrose. “It is finished . . . He is risen,” he said.

The first three words were spoken on the cross when Jesus Christ died, Hellmann said.

“It’s like when you pay your bill and the storekeeper writes across it ‘paid in full.’ These are the same words Jesus used when he cried out ‘It is finished,’ he said.

“In this way Jesus announced that he had paid our bill in full,” Hellmann said, “That, by his sufferings on the cross, the sins of all people were completely atoned for. Forgiveness and eternal life were now available to all.”

The second set of words “He is risen!” is what the angel said on the first Easter morning at the empty tomb, Hellmann noted.

“Jesus’ resurrection declares to all that he is the eternal Son of God as he said he was,” Hellmann said.

“For Christians the focus of Easter is Christ’s victory over death and sin (1 Corinthians 15:51-56),” Forseth said.

“And if we truly take the message of Easter to heart, it should impact how we live and the choices we make,” he said.

“There is nothing wrong with good, clean fun and generosity if the focus of Easter remain s our top priority,” Forseth added.

'Unpleasant' subjects

A culture that tends to focus on selfish needs – or that doesn’t wish to examine unpleasant things such as sin and death – is becoming less and less willing to deal with real issues, including the personal significance of Easter, many pastors noted.

“Too many who would call themselves Christians want to skip that part,” Cloutier said.

“There is no new life without first death, there is no joy of Easter Sunday morning without first the desolation of Good Friday, there is no risen life of the empty tomb without first the abondonment to the Father on Calvary,” Cloutier said.

Encouraging each other to live better Christian lives “has become the roley poley idol of selfishness and greed,” Cloutier said.

“The bunny and the eggs that were meant to express newness of life . . . (but) are themselves distractions at best, or even neo-pagan symbols of materialism and this wordly outlook on a merely natural lifecycle,” he said.

Others did not find it necessary to dispense with the bunnies altogether.

“Let’s keep the Easter Bunny and the eggs, just like it is fine to keep Santa and the reindeer,” said Pastor Bill Baldwin of Prairie Community Church in Lester Prairie.

“The world has commercialized Easter because it does not know the value of the empty tomb,” said Pastor Lyndon Korhonen of Good Shepherd in Cokato.

A story with a happy ending

Pastors noted the good news of eternal life for Christians made possibly by the resurrection.

“With Easter, we have new beginnings,” Baldwin observed.

“It’s our eternal warranty that our faith is sure and that we can face anything in this world with the love that God had first shared with us through Jesus Christ,” Rupprecht said.

“Jesus’ resurrection from the dead on Easter morning is our assurance that what Christ accomplished on the cross on Good Friday is now our free gift as Romans 6:23 declares,” Rupprecht said.

“Easter, Christ’s resurrection, is our guarantee that we do have God’s forgiveness, our salvation, and assurance that we, too, will rise on the last day when Christ returns to take us to our eternal home in heaven with Jesus,” Rupprecht said.

“The Easter message, ‘Jesus lives’ needs to be understood that Jesus is indeed alive and well. His Holy Spirit is active with us in all the ministries of the church,” commented Pastor Sherri Sandoz of Bethel Lutheran.

“For those who know about the real Easter, both 2000 years ago, and in 2005, it’s like taking off in a 747 in overcast conditions and suddenly breaking out above the clouds,” Sorensen said.

“If we truly understand the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection,” Forseth said, “the words of Paul will impact the way we live.

‘How we thank the Lord for all of this! It is He who makes us victorious through Jesus Christ our Lord! So, my dear brothers, since future victory is sure, be strong and steady, always abounding in the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever wasted as it would be if there were no resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:57).’”

“Easter – the day of the resurrection of the Son of God – is at the fulcrum point of all history where God reveals to us the bright sun/son and a limitless horizon. Once you understand that, the only reasonable response is to bow down and worship God,” Sorensen said.

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