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As some of you know, I am more about Jesus’ life than his death. And the whole resurrection thing? Well, I believe in that only in the sense that Jesus’ followers experienced something that made them begin to apply Jesus lessons, and that was inspiration that attracted others and grew, even beyond his crucifixion.
So, as I went through Lent and Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday that goes from cheers to horror, and with the focus increasing on Jesus as sacrifice and Savior, I was increasingly uncomfortable. The debate over Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” fell during this season, with its focus on self-proclaimed Christians of various social beliefs arguing both for and against the law. I argued against it – called supporters “bigoted”, in fact – but it made me consider even more what I believe at this Easter season.
This Easter weekend, social media and church services blossomed with celebration that “Christ is Risen!” After I celebrated in church with my own alleluias, singing and stamping about Jesus “trampling death”, I realized I can clarify my position. Jesus is among us, with a caveat.

The Troparion - Jesus Lives

Christ is risen as long as we are doing our best to live out the love he showed and the lessons he shared. Love one another. Feed the hungry. Comfort the sick. Those lessons. WE are the body of Christ in the world when we are working to bring about justice for the poor, helpless, and downtrodden, when we are fighting bigotry, injustice and environmental waste and abuse. When we are stamping out homelessness, hunger and suffering. When we do these things, we are following in Jesus’ footsteps, working to bring about a social order based on love, not power. That’s when he’s truly risen.
I realize that my beliefs (and lack of) are contrary to the official doctrine of many Christian denominations, including my own Episcopal church. Luckily, my church community loves me anyway, and supports me in continuing to seek my own path to work for social justice.
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Over the past couple of years, I’ve separated myself from my Holy Innocents Episcopal church community. This year, I started to come back, knowing that I need community support on my life journey.

A few years ago, I was very much into the whole Lent-Holy Week-Easter “do”, taking on a Lenten discipline, being a member of the altar party in most Holy Weeks services, and swinging 360’s with the thurible at Easter services. I hung out with friends who were very much into church, and I immersed myself in the experience with them.

Then I ran into some challenges as my friends split up for reasons both good and bad. I was disillusioned and angry, and my connection to the liturgy was largely lost. I paid attention again to what was being said in the liturgy and sermons, and how I felt about it. I’d never believed in the fact of resurrection and of Jesus as a sacrifice for sins. Central to my faith about Easter was the experience of Jesus’ life and teachings continuing on in the experiences of his disciples – both female and male – and I increasingly felt the sting of the male-dominated church history. Our altar at church and liturgical language became less inclusive, and that gave me another reason to separate myself.

Jesus’ teachings about social justice and his radical opposition to the religious authorities of his time got him killed. He spoke truth to power and was unwilling to be silent, ultimately paying the price with his life. That was the sacrifice – non-violent protest, refusing to fight fire with fire (except in theological debates with religious authorities.) The fact that his message was powerful enough to be felt after his death is the resurrection experience that is true for me.

The Easter Vigil service has a special place in my heart, from the storytelling of faith perspectives to the drama of the light arriving and the first “Alleluias.” At one of my favorite Vigil services, our response to each reading was “And God isn’t finished with us yet.” I had missed the Vigil service for at least two years, but I went this year. I received an important message and insight from the service: a way to become an Easter person again, even though I don’t believe in “awaiting Christ’s coming in glory”. Our preacher at the Vigil, The Rev. J. Cameron Ayers, gave me the key that night that unlocked the door in my spirit the next morning.

The Easter story is one of redemption and the triumph of love. There are many examples of redemption and the triumph of love in today’s world if we look for them. They just tend to be drowned out by injustice, violence and greed. Jesus the man is dead, but his example lives on. As Christians, we are required to be Christ in the world today – seeking out injustice and trying to right the wrongs, returning violence with powerful but non-violent responses, and calling out the powerful to take action.

It’s our job to eradicate injustice, violence and greed, so that love really does triumph, throughout the world. I can be that kind of Easter person – or at least try to be.