Easter Sole

During Bible study classes I’ve taught, I may query the students about the three things Jesus asked his followers to go and do.

It’s a darn good Easter question.

Two answers usually come easily from the students: baptism and communion. (Or dunking and dining, to be flippant.)

While I won’t share lengthy insights about the profound theology and tradition of those rituals, few Christians doubt their importance. Whether a believer is liberal or conservative, traditional or radical, nearly all agree on communion’s reminder of holy nourishment and baptism’s call to a lifetime of discipleship. And so much more . . .

What about the third request?

Most don’t remember Jesus requested his followers to wash another’s feet. Maybe you’ve seen the Pope kneel to symbolically wash a few soles during Holy Week. Perhaps in your church you’ve done it on Maundy Thursday. Regardless of how it’s explained or remembered, ritually washed feet have lost out in “popularity” compared to dunking and dining.

I understand. We’re not a 24/7 sandal-wearing culture anymore. We’re well-heeled and high-heeled, Mary-Janed and wing-tipped, a people of many soles. A whole lot of folks, especially in contemporary American society, squirm over exposed tootsies. (Ohh, I’m ticklish. Arrgh, my toes are gnarly.) However, all flippancy aside, I’m grateful Jesus asked us to remember the humble act of serving another. Down and dirty, sandal to sandal, face to face, sole to sole . . . and of course, soul to soul.

We say on Easter, rightly so, Happy Easter! However, on this wondrous day, on this life and death and life again celebration, I pray to honor the three things Jesus asked us—me—to go forth and do. Yes, those Biblical requests have become formal, fancy liturgies. But all of us will break bread with another who hopes to be welcomed; all of us, wet or dry, seek community; and all of us are weary from the journey and need rest and care.

On one day, let us joyfully shout, Happy Easter! In every day, let us become a living response to Jesus’ simple, soulful requests . . .

The Staggering Mystery

John 20:1-18 – Easter Sunday – for April 8, 2012

“The Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb…” (John 20:3)

Is there anything I could write about Easter to inspire, irk, deflate or deepen your faith? I doubt it.

Shrink-wrapped and ready for Easter...

You probably know what you’d answer if asked about the importance of Easter . . . and you’re the only one who’d know if what you said aloud is different from what you believed in your heart of hearts.

Easter is fact first, faith second. No, reverse the order.

It’s about the empty tomb. Or not.

Or this . . . aren’t we glad, when Peter eased into the tomb, that he spotted the “linen wrapping” used for Jesus’ body? But Peter’s discovery only occurred in John’s Gospel and therefore the added bonus of forensic evidence seems as flimsy as cheap muslin. How could John—the final Gospel written, the Johnny-come-lately account of Jesus’ life—have a disciple witness the burial garment and Matthew, Mark and Luke are silent, or “blind?” Without the fickle fabric, I wonder* if we’d have the centuries-long Shroud of Turin controversy? If John didn’t become part of the New Testament (and most gospels written in the early centuries of Christendom weren’t included), the folks embracing/rejecting claims about Turin’s (in)famous shroud wouldn’t have any Easter “material” to stitch together or tear apart.

Or this . . . isn’t it odd the word itself—Easter—has so little to do with Jesus the Christ’s resurrection? Convenient Wikipedia posits about the word’s etymology this way:

The modern English term “Easter” is the direct continuation of Old English Ä’astre, whose role as a goddess is attested solely by Bede in the 8th century.[2] Ä’ostre is the Northumbrian form, while Ä’astre is more common West Saxon.[3]

Huh? As a preacher, shouldn’t I fear a random layperson, some guy or gal who’s quietly occupied the pew all year long, abruptly rising before the sermon begins and asking—nay, demanding—an explanation for how Christianity’s holiest day got linked to a Northumbrian goddess? Whew! . . . it likely won’t happen. Most folks are too polite. Thank God. Continue reading →