As a child, I spent every Easter on the beach. The “Semana Santa” (Easter Week) celebrations in El Salvador, my native country, do not include colored eggs, bunnies or baskets…however for most people it does involve a sojourn in the local beaches, time spent with family and friends and the participation in some form of religious tradition (church service, mass, or processions).
In my case, every year my entire family (by family I mean the Latin American version of extended family which includes aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives) would gather at my grandfather’s beach house and spend the week together. The time spent with family and friends surrounded by palm trees, water, and sun is one of my favorite childhood memories. My cousins (who for the most part were older and seemed so cool at that time) usually invited friends over to spend the week with us, so the house was always filled with laughter, card games, food, music and some form of youthful excitement. Every day the entire family would eat meals together, swim together and enjoy the distance from the daily routines by following a vacation routine.
Our days would begin by putting on our swimsuits, going for breakfast and later going for a swim…after working up our appetite by playing, swimming and sunbathing we would go back for the second meal of the day. Generally, after lunch the grownups would lie in the hammocks and take a siesta (nap), while the rest of the pack would watch t.v., play card games or do whatever other activity would help us endure the wait for the next swim of the day… Swimming was the highlight of the whole week…my cousins, siblings and I would look for starfish in the water, ride waves or simply enjoy the sun. After the afternoon swim, we would return to the house, eat dinner, and play some more card games, watch t.v. or gather round a bonfire.
|8 year old me at the beach|
I loved those times…the only instance when I remember being unhappy during Easter vacation was on Easter Fridays… every year, we were not allowed to go swimming to the ocean or the pool until three p.m. of that day. I remember languishing by pool, wishing the time would go by faster and hoping for the ninth hour. When the clock showed that it was 3 o’ clock in the afternoon, I would jump into the water like I was up in flames, and swim like I had never been to a pool before. This happened year after year, Easter after Easter. The somewhat unorthodox practice of “pool and ocean abstinence” was the way in which the adults in our family wanted to teach us children about Christ’s sacrifice, and help us understand in a practical way the meaning of that day. I remember that as a child, this helped me understand that Easter Friday was not a “happy” day…and that Jesus had been in a state of suffering until 3 p.m. which came to an end when he said “it is done” and yielded his spirit.
Even though time has passed, and now my Easters include bunnies, baskets, colored eggs and church service, I still retain my childhood practice of remembering Christ sufferings until 3 p.m. on Easter Friday. Ironically, now that I am a grownup, the roles have been reversed…the highlight of my week is the practical discipline which helps me meditate on Christ’s sacrifice…had somebody told me that when I was a child, I would have thought they were crazy.
The Bible narrates how something similar happened to a church…Paul told the church in Corinth that as they grew in Christ, some things which originally seemed foolish to them would become the very things that they would come to value and practice.
The Wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:18-30)
“The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”
So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.
But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.
Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.
God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.””
It seems like things have not changed much in people’s heart since Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians. Several people have reservations regarding the Christian faith; they get offended or embarrassed by it. In modern societies, scientific theory and thought dominate the dialogue of what is considered plausible and acceptable as truth.
The movie “The Passion of the Christ” shows a very powerful scene where Pontius Pilate, after having met with Christ, asks his wife the following questions: “Truth, what is truth? Do you hear it? Do you recognize it when it is spoken?” Pilate had just encountered Truth, and yet he had a hard time recognizing this fact due to his preconceived notions and beliefs. Christ said of himself: “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). The answer to Pilate’s questions had literally stared him in the face, but he did not see it. This happened with many of Pilate’s contemporaries as well; the Jewish folk, the high priests and the Romans could not reconcile Christ with their preconceived notions and beliefs regarding the Messiah who was to come.
God sent Christ to die on the Cross, to pay for our sins and ransom our souls…during Easter, we commemorate this sacrifice…but do we believe it? Do we receive it? Or do we only think about it for a while, put it aside, and choose to rely on our preconceived notions and ideas about life and human existence?
The message of the cross is so powerful; it is the purest expression of divine love and divine justice merged in one act of sacrifice, yet it is hard to comprehend. Like Tim Hughes wrote “I’ll never know how much it cost, to see my sin upon that cross”.
There are so many aspects of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that are beyond human understanding; that are competing with, or even contradicting preconceived notions that we have…but the truth is staring us in the face. In this Easter season, may God open our eyes and let us see beyond our preconceived notions and ideas, and recognize the truth in the form of Jesus Christ the savior. And may we keep in mind that practices and ideas that once seemed foolish can become the most valuable practices and ideas we’ll ever know.