So, Easter has come and gone. The most visible reminders of Easter are the left over chocolate bunnies on sale at drug stores, grocery stores and inferior candy shops. More hidden are the bags of candy, colored hard boiled eggs and ham sandwiches. Crosses are uncovered and back in churches but most of us will not see that until next Sunday when we return to pews in fewer numbers than last Sunday. I have often thought about what a strange, mixed up holiday Easter is.
Bunnies, eggs and other symbols of the regenerative powers of nature vie with the Christian symbols of a resurrected Christ. Chocolate a sign of the excess with the end of lent. (Does anyone fast for lent anymore?). That in itself seems strange to me. Overindulgence marks the end of a no-longer very much observed season of fasting, repentance and reconciliation. It is almost as strange as the overindulgent Mardi Gras that began lent. The use of ham to feast a Jewish Rabbi also strikes a discordant note to my ears.
There is a pine tree outside of where I work out. Originally the tree was shaped as a “Y” with two equal branches reaching heavenward. Long ago, one of the braches was lopped off because it grew out over a sidewalk. The tree responded by twisting and curving back over the trunk. The fact that the tree is a pine that would not ordinarily grow in the desert adds to the strangeness of the sight. The twisted tree reminds me of Christianity and the strange shape it has taken on two thousand years after Jesus lived.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, of Scotland, preached an Easter sermon (well, actually the report was written the day before Easter – so I don’t actually know that he preached that, only that he was expected to) on the importance of Christians wearing a cross every day of their lives, proudly. I smell the rancid odor of politics diluting Christianity in this message. There is a case going before the European Union high court about the rights of employees to wear crosses at work. The Cardinal is following the Popes lead here. They are concerned about the suit brought before the EU court by two airline stewardesses that were told they could not wear crosses while they worked. My first thought on reading the article was one of disbelief. Doesn’t he have any spiritual messages for Easter?
He is worried about a larger issue. That is the marginalization of religion (his, of course) in society. I am thinking the “church” and Christianity would be better off being on the outside of politics and society. I am also thinking that many actions and political positions by Christians are driving the marginalization “in some quarters”.
- Insistence on a literal interpretation of the “truth” of the bible.
- Stands on abortion - absolutely not.
- Stands on homosexuality - of the devil.
- Response on sexual abuse by clergy - a day late and a dollar short.
- Anti-Semitism - Jews killed Jesus.
Those are not instep with modern times and place Christianity on the edges of society.
I’m sure that you could add many others.
Sometimes, I am glad not to be identified by wearing some symbol of Christianity. I think of how Jews were made to wear stars of David to identify them during Nazi times in Europe. Then there were the pogroms of Christian nations like Russia and other East European nations. How about the Inquisition? Armies of Crusaders (wearing crosses on their shields, no doubt) attacked and slaughtered Jewish settlements in Germany, and elsewhere, in the middle ages. They also made war on Moslems in the holy lands, just because they were not Christians. Then there was the Thirty Years War think reformation and counter reformation - in Europe that had Christians slitting each other’s throats.
Should I wear a cross to identify myself with them? Think I’ll pass.
Want people to know that you are a Christian?
How about acting like one? How about living the way Jesus taught?
- Feeding the hungry.
- Giving drink to the thirsty.
- Visiting those in prison.
- Loving your neighbors – regardless of whom or what they may be.
- Even more difficult, loving those that hate you.
- Abjuring wealth, status symbols, and being important.
How about staying out of politics and tending your flock?
Living with those principles would surely mark you as more of a follower of Christ than wearing a large gold or silver cross that could be seen by everyone.
Sort of like praying in a closet (Matthew 6:5-6) and washing your face when fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). Matthew 6 also mentions doing good things in secrete so that you will be seen in secrete by your father and rewarded.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”