There are three ways in which we experience an event: We anticipate it, we celebrate it, and we reflect on it afterward. If we short-change anything, we probably neglect the last phase. We are so quick to move on to “the next thing” that we fail to consider the significance of what we just did.
So before we rush out to buy a new grill for Memorial Day, we would do well to remember that in the church, Easter is more than a day. It is a season, “the Great Fifty Days,” as the early Christians called it.
During these weeks leading up to the celebration of Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is fitting to reflect on the meaning of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. For this we turn to the Apostle Paul, because he takes up the task of explaining what the resurrection means for believers.
Paul’s monumental letter to the Christians at Rome comes to a crescendo in chapter 8. After an extensive discussion of the pervasiveness of sin, Paul takes a breath, dips his pen into the inkwell, and writes this transitional statement: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
And that’s just the beginning. Here is a sampling of the good news.
For those who stand at the graveside: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”
For those who are losing hope: “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
For those who find it hard to pray: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”
And in one of the most eloquent statements in the scriptures, Paul declares, “If God is for us, who is against us? Who will separate us from the love of Christ?”
Paul then lists some of the big things that create crises for us, such as “hardship, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword.” But the truth is, sometimes we handle a crisis better than a small matter. Sometimes it is the little things that undo us, that spoil the day, that erode our peace of mind.
For instance, you drop ketchup on a new blouse. Your car door is scratched in the parking lot. You forget an appointment. You just mopped the floor and one of the kids spills juice on it.
In those moments, we may lose our temper and say things we later regret, all because of a trifle. Sometimes we are defeated by the big things, but more often, it is the little things.
Someone once recalled that the most important thing his parents taught him was to know the difference between big things and small things, and to let the small things remain small.
The message of Easter is that God in Christ has overcome the big things — sin, death, and evil. They no longer have dominion over us. Since we can count on that, it behooves us to keep things in perspective. Most of the things we get all worked up about aren’t that important.
May this season of Eastertide enable us to focus on the things that really matter and to be less distracted by the things that don’t, so that our lives might be centered more fully in God’s love, joy and peace.
Rev. Philip N. Wilden is pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in Delaware.