The meaning and message of Easter can sometimes get lost in the world in which we live. There are competing narratives and events that crowd out resurrection and new life. Whether it’s the Easter Bunny, Easter Baskets, Easter Eggs, and Easter Candy, or this year the Masters Golf Tournament that coincides with the weekend, there is a steady competition for garnering our attention.

Much of the Christian narrative and message of the Gospel have receded from cultural memory. Many do not practice Easter or comprehend the cross and resurrection as it was done in previous generations. Fresh Expressions isn’t just about doing “church things” outside of “church buildings,” it’s about translating the timeless message of who Jesus is and why he came and did what he did to today’s cultural setting.

Easter is a global, universal cosmic event where the whole of creation is shaken into a new reality. The Cross and Resurrection stand at the center of time and eternity. Humanity is saved and redeemed by Jesus as he bore the sin of all on the cross, and just as he was raised, we too, who believe will be raised as well.

Signs of Brokenness

It is easy to see and name the brokenness in this world. Just last week, I was in Nashville for a conference, and on Monday morning, I was shattered by another senseless act of violence at a school where three adults and three nine-year-old children were murdered.

The South is often called the Bible Belt, and if that is true, then Nashville may be considered the buckle of the Bible Belt. I saw a hemorrhaging of deep pain, grief, sorrow, and loss. There was also a hemorrhaging of mercy, kindness, compassion & love. The local news carried stories of prayer vigils, collections, contributions to support the school and the loss it suffered. People were making their presence known, being with others who felt the pain of this moment.

The Cross as Our Model

Holy Week and Easter show us that we are to be a “cruciform” people. We are shaped like the cross, where we can reach up and reach out. We reach up to Almighty God to love and be loved, and we reach out to family, friends, neighbors, and strangers, being a conduit of love.

This Cruciform pattern is at the center of what we do at Fresh Expressions. Reaching up and reaching out in love is what Jesus did and what he calls us to do. He becomes our model and our source for actions that change the world. We reach up to God, who is our strength and sustainer, and he provides what we need for the body, soul, mind, and spirit.

We reach out through our “ministry of presence” or “with-ness,” which fuels the church’s mission. I saw this in Nashville as stories flooded in of Jesus’ followers providing practical care, like donations and other services, and spiritual care, like the vigils or individual prayers. They were “reaching out” like the arms of the cross.

Jesus’ followers and our non-believing neighbors all inhabit dinner tables, coffee shops, city parks, gyms, and cul-de-sacs. But as cruciform people, these spaces aren’t just landmarks or amenities; they are places where we have the opportunity to act as cruciform people. We begin by reaching up, seeking to understand God’s heart for a particular place or group of people.

Then, we reach out. Dinner tables, often private places for families and friends, are opened to others who need food or friends. Coffee shops, parks, and gyms, often spaces for individualistic pursuits, become opportunities for connecting with and blessing our neighbors. Normal everyday routines can be equipped and filled with the Holy Spirit and invite people into a relationship with Almighty God. At Fresh Expressions training, we share stories of how tattoo parlors and dog parks can become Holy Ground. At Dinner Church training, we tell stories of Christians repurposing fellowship halls and years of potluck experience to create opportunities to love and serve their neighbors. With a little training, anyone can learn how to turn their everyday lives into opportunities to live in a cruciform way.

The Intimacy of Holy Week

While Easter is a global and cosmic moment, Holy Week, the services and celebrations recounting the passion, the cross, death, and resurrection, these mighty acts of salvation are personal and intimate. We see this in the texts that tell the story of this week.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).                                                                          

John 20:15-16

We see the intimacy of Holy Week when Jesus calls Mary by name and when he did her world changed. She recognized the Risen Lord in that moment and nothing would ever be the same again.

In Mark’s account (Mark 16:5-7) we are given this detail.

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.

Peter is also named specifically. He boldly proclaimed that he would die for Jesus but ended up denying Him three times. After his denials, we are told that Peter went out and “wept bitterly” over what he had done. He failed and was now estranged, lost, and broken. In this announcement, he is included by name as his restoration begins.

Resurrection, salvation, and redemption become personal on Easter. When we live as cruciform people, it takes us out of our private religious spaces and into our neighbors’ lives. Like Jesus, we want to know others on this personal level to proclaim news that is truly good for them.

Resurrection Power is For Me, Too

It’s not just for our neighbors. Within me, there are parts that I know are not right. We all have elements of our lives that are broken and failing. We all need to be made new.

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in me by faith. Yes, we celebrate as a faith community in our congregations, but on one level, it must become a very personal, close, and experienced moment of being reconciled to God and to one another. This is how the world changes; this is how things get better.

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed!

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Jon Davis
About the Author

Jon Davis

The Rev. Jon Davis PhD is an Episcopal Priest, church planter, teacher, worship leader. He is on staff with Fresh Expressions as a mission strategist and is launching some Fresh Expression gatherings through the Abbey Mission in a NE suburb of Orlando.   jon.davis@freshexpressions.com