Happy Easter Everyone In 2023!
He Has Risen! He Has Risen Indeed! Hallelujah!
Every time Easter comes around I have a good chuckle. We Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the new life that comes out of that theology. At the same time many of us and others around are celebrating Easter with the Easter Bunny and hidden decorated eggs. The idea that our Christian forefathers thought it was a good idea to try and cover up a Pagan holiday centered around fertility with bunnies and eggs by creating a holiday celebrating the resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ just always gets me. Instead of covering up the Pagan holiday rituals, they rise to the occasion and remain stronger than ever in our American culture.
He has risen, he has risen indeed! 😉
But in all seriousness… Easter has only recently taken on a new perspective in my life. I grew up every year hearing the importance of Easter was centered around the death of Jesus. Not only that Jesus died, but died gruesomely. Reminded year after year of the incredible amount of pain Jesus had to endure when being tortured and forced to carry his cross up the hill while battered and bleeding. Detailed depictions of Jesus’ arm being ripped out of his socket while having his arms stretched out onto the cross and nails driven into each limb to hold him in place. And to top it all off, reminded that Jesus didn’t die from all of those injuries. But instead he died from slowly suffocating due to his lungs collapsing from not being able to hold his body up and the weight of his body crushing his airways…
All that sacrifice was somehow a transactional action or symbol of God’s ultimate forgiveness of humanity's sins. Thank God for Jesus going through all of that and being the key to getting us into heaven! Right? Maybe you’ve heard those messages before too. If this was your first time hearing it, sorry for perpetuating that message.
But then Easter comes and it is back to regular old church services. Yea, maybe the service is a bit more celebratory but never matching the intensity of how we depict the importance of Jesus’ death. And many will make the case that for Jesus’ resurrection to mean anything, we first have to understand Jesus’ death. Sure… but then doesn’t that make the resurrection all the more important!?
Sometimes I wonder… Do we miss out on the intensity of the resurrection of Christ because we only focus on the eternal salvation aspect of Jesus’ transaction from the cross to the empty tomb? When Jesus’ death and resurrection only impacts our status after we’re dead, the relevance of Easter feels so distant.
How does Easter connect with our lives today?
To connect Easter to our daily lives I think we have to remove our way of thinking away from salvation. Easter does not have to solely be about what Jesus did for our eternal lives. Not everyone even subscribes to the idea of Jesus paying a price for our sins so that we might get to live in heaven eternally. So let's zoom out and recognize Jesus’ life as a whole.
Everything Jesus said. Everything Jesus did. The way in which Jesus taught the community to care for one another. The way Jesus loved and treated the outcasts, untouchables, women, the poor, the sick, or anyone who was deemed “unworthy” by the religious leaders of the time. All of what Jesus did was seen as crazy or radical. Jesus broke Jewish traditions and spoke out against the religious law. Jesus disrupted power structures to the point of leaders being so threatened by him they organized and had him killed.
There, problem solved. Lets get back to business as usual. But wait… We all know the good news of Easter. Jesus doesn’t stay dead! But what does that mean if it isn’t about dying for our sins or granting us eternal life?
What if Jesus rising from the dead simply means everything he said was true? No human has ever come back from being dead for three days. Jesus’ resurrection points to his Godliness. The claims of being the Son of God are now believable. Jesus’ ministry was not simply some nice suggestions and showing that he was a nice guy. The fact that Jesus returns from certain death and defies all odds brings life to everything he said and did.
When Jesus said things like…
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ -Matthew 25:40
“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” -Matthew 19:21
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. -Matthew 5:3-10
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:37-40
These are only a few examples. But my point is that Jesus rose from the dead, showing his Godly nature, and pushing us to take his ministry all the more seriously! To strive to live a life of love that breaks the norms and mundane patterns humans have created separating us from our neighbors. To follow love into unfamiliar and maybe even dark places for the sake of radical change that lifts up those voices that get drowned out by privilege. To let love guide us all the way into death-like experiences of our own because Jesus has revealed that following love, even into the darkness of death, brings new life on the other side. New life that is different from the old one. Sacrificial love changes us as well as the world around us for the good. God’s love is good!
The new life Easter promises shows up in our lives in an infinite amount of scenarios.
Recently I heard a fascinating story, told by storyteller Jeffery Allen Hayes, on the Bawdy Storytelling podcast about a time in his life where his body forced him to face his own darkness. This story takes place in Jefferey’s college years. One day in his Shakespeare Studies class, students had to come prepared to debate when Shakespeare wrote Love’s Labor’s Lost. Much to his surprise, with each student getting upfront and presenting their hypothesis, Jeffery was involuntarily building arousal and barreling towards exploding in his pants during the middle of class. “And then there comes the argument for 1594, but I can’t even… iieeeee…. I CUM SO HARD!” Jeffery exclaims!
I don’t know about you, but I’d imagine involuntarily orgasming in a public place has gotta come with a mixed bag of feelings ranging from incredibly embarrassed to oddly calming. And this wasn’t the last time for poor Jeffery. He continued to experience this new symptom. Next in biology class learning about mitosis. Then in philosophy class when the professor says, “the thing about tautologies is the thing about tautologies” it's all over! Jeffery is left confused and needing help to say the least.
He has to go to the student health center where they end up connecting him with a care navigator on campus who will assist in building a personalized system to help Jeffery continue his studies. He got ultimate permission to excuse himself from classes when needed or make whatever faces he needed to, in order to remain in class. Never-the-less, Jeffery’s symptoms continued until one moment helped him break out of what was pleasurably plaguing him.
One day at home with his roommate casually playing video games, his roommate says, “it seems like this is all working out pretty well for you.”
Jeffery is slightly confused but continues playing video games. His roommate continues, “No, I mean… It's not just, like, getting out of class and everything. I mean, I’m glad this is happening to you because you seem a lot more comfortable now with who you are.”
Caught off guard Jeffery asks, “what do you mean?”
“Well Jeffery, you’re very sexually repressed,” his roommate replied.
The fact that someone could tell he was sexually repressed, Jeffery said, was a wake up call. He didn’t know it was visible to others.
Jeffery goes on to reveal that he was out as gay, but wasn’t dating. He wasn’t comfortable in himself or experiencing himself. He was sexually repressed and was faced with it at that moment. Jeffery doesn’t share why, but for whatever reason he was denying himself his own sexuality manifested in his body. His own body cried out for his sexuality to be acknowledged and known. And by God, if it's gonna take involuntary public orgasms to do it, Jeffery’s body was gonna do it!
Jeffery’s roommate helped point out something deep about Jeffery that he wouldn’t even acknowledge. And not only did he point it out, Jeffery’s roommate was happy for him that through this experience Jeffery was having, he was beginning to own his own sexuality. And it was a good thing. The next day, he didn’t cum in class. It was gone…
From that experience, Jeffery now lives a different life. He listens to his body these days. And apparently, Jeffery shares, his body now tells him things like, “we need to go to a bathhouse today.” Or, “we need to suck three dicks today.” While he acknowledges those needs cannot always be met, he seems more at peace with who he is.
I believe Jeffery found new life once he chose to love himself.
He was living in his own darkness. A darkness that was stopping him from embracing himself with love. It took his body going to extreme measures and a kind word from a roommate to chase out that darkness with the light of love. If that doesn’t sound like God, I don’t know what does. Darkness doesn’t have to be some dramatic or rock-bottom situation. Sometimes it can simply look like sexual repression, a divorce, questioning your sexuality, learning a new non-monogamous relationship structure, hiring a sex worker, and on and on. These dark moments don’t have to mean they are bad, it simply means they might be new and unknown situations. They might just be moments where you don’t know exactly what to do or what the next right thing to do is. Darkness just means you can’t see what's next and it may feel impossible to take the next step for whatever reason.
What I’m saying is let love guide your next step.
I believe the real impact of Easter that we can take and apply to our lives today is the courage to know that when we lead with love, no matter how dark that path gets, new life is awaiting us on the other side. That somehow, in the chaotic and impossibility I create in my own head, walking into darkness with love creates space for some kind of divine action that always takes me by surprise. I never know what that action is going to look like but it continually manifests in some sort of healing, growth, peace, patience, gentleness, etc. Something good comes when following love into darkness.
This Easter, let's remember Christ’s greatest commandment and how he lived this out. How Christ shared his last supper with Judas knowing he would turn him over for some silver. Remember how Christ healed the man’s ear Peter cut off out of desperation to stop Jesus’ arrest. How Christ remained calm and cordial during his questioning from Pilate while never denying his divinity. Let’s remember when Christ called out asking God to forgive them, for they don’t know what they're doing as they killed him. Jesus took each step towards that cross with love leading the way.
This Easter, let's remember how Christ is reflected in Jeffery’s new life when he chose to face the darkness of sexual repression and made the choice to love himself by listening to his body. Even if his body sometimes wants to suck three dicks in a day…
THANK GOD FOR SEX!
THANK GOD FOR EASTER!
HE HAS RISEN! HALLELUJAH!
-The Dirty Minister
Bawdy Storytelling Podcast 253: ‘Special Needs Scholar’ (Jeffery Allen Hayes) - Usually I like to link these stories but unfortunately the Bawdy Storytelling website doesn’t have recent episodes. So if you’d like to listen, go search for this podcast on your favorite podcast platform.