“Christ is risen!” the minister says. “Christ is risen indeed!” the people answer.
In many Christian churches this refrain will echo within the sanctuary walls, or off the trees and the meadows at the outdoor sunrise service this weekend. For many who will say these words, who will proclaim them, it is done with the utmost joy. It is a beautiful thing. But…
I’ve been wondering what these shouts sound like to those who find themselves outside the sanctuary walls, for those who will not rise with the sun on Easter morning.
I’ve been wondering, what does this refrain mean to them, does it mean anything at all? And if it does mean something, I wonder if it is less an exclamation of joy, as heard by their ears, or if it sounds a bit more like a battle cry? That may seem overly harsh to those of us within the bounds of the church. But, I’m afraid, it may be all too real for those on the outside – those who may experience it less as a proclamation of joy and more like a religiously wielded club – a club as in the item used for hitting over the head, but also a club whose cliquishness keeps some folks in and others out.
For most of us who claim to follow this Jesus, this Christ whose name is proclaimed, it is perhaps a shock and a sadness to have this suggested, that our shout of joy may sound more like an invitation for a fight than for a feast. But this is not how it was meant to be, not our intention, we protest.
A few years ago I had the amazing privilege of being in Paris for a ten day photography class. On that Sunday afternoon, as I was walking back to my oh-so budget hotel after class, I began to hear something in the distance. It sounded like music. Music, and perhaps singing. And it sounded like quite a crowd. Rounding the corner, to my surprise, I came upon a giant parade, in full glory. There were floats, there was music, and there was a dancing, singing, walking, cheering crowd of people, growing larger as the parade made it’s way down that Paris street. It was awesome. For a photographer, it was a dream come true. I hurried up to the hotel, got the manager to let me into a vacant street-facing room, and captured this pulsing crowd from above. It was spectacular.
As I returned downstairs to return the manager’s key I realized – I had to join in. How could I stay in the hotel when there was this parade, this party, this undulating dance of joy happening outside? By that time most of the parade had made its way past. As the idea took hold of me I quickly went around the corner to a shop that rented roller blades, put on a pair, and headed back out into the street. It was easy enough to catch up with the festivities, as they didn’t seem to be in any particular hurry to get to wherever they were going.
The closer I got, the more crowded it became – a bit challenging on the roller blades, but inviting nonetheless. I had told the shop owner I’d be back in a few hours – he told me not to worry if it wasn’t until the next day. Clearly, he had the better read on the situation than I did – for as the parade wound its way through those city streets, along the Seine, and then across one of its many bridges, I found that I couldn’t tear myself away from it – there was just too much joy.
A few hours into my adventure the sky began to darken and the clouds began to accumulate. Surely it was about to rain. I had not come prepared for rain – I was in shorts and a short sleeved shirt, with not even a jacket – just me and my rollerblades – and my camera. It began at first as a sprinkle. I wondered if I should find cover somewhere. Hadn’t this experience been enough? Wasn’t it time for me to go back to the hotel, to find myself some dinner, and to return to my plan for the afternoon?
The rain began to fall harder – and seemed to only be gathering up steam, so to speak. Nearby was a cart selling sodas and donuts.
“Do you speak English?” I asked. The answer was less of a yes than I had hoped, so I turned to that essential skill of those who would travel beyond the bounds of their own language group – charades. I pointed to the sky, pointed to my camera, to my lack of proper attire, and then made a motion like putting something over me to cover the aforementioned camera and attire. A smile came across the vendor’s face as he reached into the cart below and handed me a large trash bag. Ripping a hole in the top for my head, and two holes in the sides for my arms, I proceeded to don my new outfit, and continued on the way.
It was after dusk when I finally, now dry, arrived back at my hotel after spending more than 6 hours following the parade, joining the celebration. I was exhausted, but in a way that was not depleted, but full – full of life, full of joy, full of enthusiasm, full of being a part of something larger than myself, a shared something that had invited me to join in, to celebrate, to dance, to live.
Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed.
But, I wonder, what would it look like for those of us who announce such good news to do something more than merely proclaim it?
Perhaps it is time to parade it.