If you don't know a given French word, it's usually worth trying out the English word in a French-ish accent, and you often get lucky. And then sometimes you don't.
"Easter" is a word with an unexpected French equivalent: "Pâques". The word "Passover" is also translated into French as "Pâques". It is, in some ways, a more sensible choice than "Easter", which has cloudy and likely pagan origins. Sitting in the French service of our Burundian church this morning, I heard maybe my first Easter sermon ever preached from Exodus. But for a francophone, this is logical. It's the same word. The connection between Passover and Easter is already made. Thus, the ways in which Jesus is prefigured by the substitutionary sacrifice of the spotless lamb are maybe more obvious than in English. This is a good thing.
It got me thinking. I generally think of the death of Christ as belonging to Good Friday and the resurrection of Christ as belonging to Easter Sunday. I have no specific desire to separate the two, but I certainly do want to remember and celebrate them both. And thus, our Pâques celebration felt a bit like a francophone version of a Good Friday service. If Easter is Passover, then we understand Jesus' death, but there is nothing that I can see in the Passover imagery that would have ever imagined that the sacrificial lamb would rise from the dead. Call it "Pâques" or "Easter", but we cannot forget the resurrection.
Maybe this is important to me because it seems like a little example of a bigger trend. Generally, I feel that I grew up with a better understanding of the meaning of the death of Jesus than of the resurrection of Jesus. And I still think that this is true of modern western Christianity. Jesus has died, and this means forgiveness and purification. But he also lives. What does this mean?
The world that I live in needs forgiveness, just as the world that I come from does. But my world here has an unavoidable brokenness that remains, even beyond its need for purification. Our patients pass away, too soon and too often, from things that are too preventable. The widow doesn't get justice. The family doesn't have enough food. A young generation doesn't have enough opportunities to change what needs to be changed. Our world cries out for newness, for wholeness, and our sinful hearts are at the center of this cry, but they are sadly not the only thing broken about this creation. What does the resurrection mean? Whatever it means, we somehow know that we need a whole lot of it.
In the center of Easter stands a new man:
Be still. A man who seems to be
A gardener rises out of the ground,
Stands like a tree, shakes off the dark,
He is the first fruits, the promise of a renewal that will leave nothing untouched. All things will be placed under his rule, including finally death itself. Paul says that we are like kernels of what resurrection will make of us. What will it be? We don't know exactly, but we cannot sideline the hope of resurrection because of its mystery. What will it be? Glory and freedom from death. Beyond that, we look to our resurrected Lord and Savior to give us a glimpse, the same Lord who proclaims that he is making all things new.
Resurrection hope has broken into our world. We wait for its completion. We yearn as we wait, but may our expectation of what will be change change how we wait.
(1 Cor 15, Rev 21, poem: Wendell Berry 1983-IV)