Happy Easter! Again
Once again the Easter eggs are colored or hidden, the family is at church, and the lilies are aggravating people’s allergies. We read the Easter story and prepare for our Easter meal. Families and churches observe a variety of Easter traditions to commemorate the highest Holy day on the Christian calendar.
Celebrating Jesus’ resurrection makes complete sense. But why do we celebrate Easter in such specific ways? Why do we observe the same rituals and traditions year after year? The celebration of annual religious festivals reaches back to Exodus and God’s instructions for the celebration of the Passover (see Exodus 13:3-10). After God spared the firstborn sons of the Israelites by passing over their homes, God asked the people of Israel to remember the event each year by eating only unleavened bread for seven days during the month of Abib. The unleavened bread reminded the people that they had to leave Egypt in haste, before their bread had time to rise.
Later on God added other festivals as a way for the people to remember their story and honor God’s love, power, and faithfulness. Christians carry on these traditions by celebrating Jesus’ birth each year at Christmas, attending special worship services during Holy Week, decking our churches in red on Pentecost, and by regularly partaking in the Lord’s Supper.
The Power of Story
As a whole the rituals and traditions that we observe every year tell the story of our faith. A growing body of research indicates that the stories we tell have an impact on who we are and how we live. Sadie Dingfelder concludes in a January 2011 article from the American Psychological Association’s online journal, “Taken together, psychologists’ narrative research makes one resounding point: We don’t just tell stories, stories tell us. They shape our thoughts and memories, and even change how we live our lives.” Telling our stories makes sense of where we have been and where we are going in our lives. Our stories can inspire, give hope, encourage perseverance, teach virtues, and pass on important knowledge.
Good stories all have similar elements: characters we can relate to, settings that put us in other places and times, high-stakes conflicts, and resolutions. Scripture is full of good stories—stories that teach us about God, how God lived among us as Jesus, and how we can have a relationship with God through Jesus.
Only God Knows the Rest of the Story
Good stories, whether we read them in the Bible or hear them told by others, have the power to change lives and change history. From the earliest cave drawings to the 140 character tweets of today, human beings have always told stories. God asks us to tell God’s story and gives us rich material from the Bible, history, and personal experience to help us do so.
As much as we would like to control the impact a story has on a listener or reader, we must leave that to the Holy Spirit. Even the most sincere testimony can fall flat if the listener is not ready to hear it. There are times we may have the right message but the wrong audience or vice versa. There may be times when we don’t know until much later that our story helped someone else.
We all have stories to tell. As Christians, we have stories about how God changes us, uses us, and blesses us when we worship, obey, and love God. When we tell our stories, we must acknowledge that God is not a character in our story but rather that we are a beloved character in God’s story. This Easter we can be inspired to tell good stories about God and the life we have in Jesus, and we can trust God that those good stories will bring the outcomes God desires.