SYMBOLS OF EASTER
EGGS: Easter eggs came into being as a symbol of new life. There is an old, old Christian legend that the Virgin Mary gave eggs to the Roman soldiers who captured her son, Jesus. In return for the gifts, she begged them not to crucify him. As she begged, and the soldiers kept refusing her request, that legend says that she cried tears which fell upon the eggs. Her tears turned into brightly coloured spots, and that's why the custom of colouring and decorating eggs remains today.
WHITE LILY: The white lily represents the clean, pure life that comes to believers through the resurrection of their Lord, Jesus Christ. Lilies were said to be found growing in the garden of Gethsemane after Christ's agony Tradition has it that the traditional white blooms sprang up where drops of Christ's sweat fell to the ground in his final hours of sorrow. At Eastertime, many churches decorate with white lilies to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus and the hope of life everlasting.
THE CROSS: The cross is a reminder to Christians that Jesus beat death when He was resurrected from His grave. The symbolism of life over death reminds Christians of Jesus' victory over death and the new life and hope the victory brings to humanity. In the end, the cross is the ultimate demonstration of God's power.
THE LAMB: The lamb is a symbol of gentleness of character and patience uder suffering. It signifies purity, meekness and sacrifice. Easter Day, which commemorates the resurrection of Jesus three days after the crucifixion, is observed with religious zeal. The lamb represents Jesus and relates his death to that of the lamb sacrificed on the first Passover. Christians traditionally refer to Jesus as the "Lamb of God."
THE ROOSTER: The rooster has been the symbol of the rising sun and the start of a new day. The symbol of the rooster may also be a reminder that the disciple Peter was told that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed.
THE BUTTERFLY: Butterflies are considered excellent symbols of Easter as their life cycle, according to Christian belief, mirrors the life of Jesus. The caterpillar stage of the butterfly signifies Jesus' birth on earth, while the cocoon stage signifies the crucifixion and His temporary absence from the world. The transformation of a butterfly and its flight towards the sky indicates Jesus' resurrection and His rise towards the heavens and the Holy Father.
THE EASTER BUNNY: The Easter Bunny, also called the Spring Bunny, is considered to be a symbol of new life and abundance. As Christians, we are to multiply our number by spreading the Good News. The bunny, or rabbit, represents the renewal of life and promotes the fertility of crops, animals and people.
Today's first reading is from Isaiah 52, verse 7.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"
And from the New Testament, Romans 6, verses 3-7.
Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the Glory ofthe Father, we too may have a new life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like, his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - because anyone who has dies has been set free from sin.
And from the Book of John, verses 19-23.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone's sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
AT EASTERTIME read by Barbara
This short story was written by Ruby Lee Mitchell, a little known author from Mississippi.
Easter is still the wondrous miracle it was on that early morning, centuries ago, when our Saviour left empty his dark and dismal tomb.
Our hearts swell with joy when we think of the triumph of His resurrection. It makes one realize that though He may be entombed by sin and degradation, He can emerge as white and shining as the angel who spoke those always remembered words, "He is risen. He is not here."
Eastertime is a time of rebirth. It means green things springing up, thrusting through what was snowy frozen earth not long ago, to leaf and flower.
We can sense the stirring of new life everywhere, of roots underground eager to break through their dark realms to cover the cold brown earth with fresh new grass that gleams in the sunlight.
The bright spring flowers are pure joy. There is enchantment in watching bare, drab tress as the first faint green appears; as the tiny heart runs to meet the spring, we, too, like to meet it in dress that honours such royalty. Leaves grow and grow to look like pale green smoke weaving delicate patterns against the blue spring sky; as they end at last, proudly flaunting their dark glossy full-grown leaves for the coming summer's comfort and glory. All this, too, is a miracle.
Eastertime is the sunshine and the showers and the soft blue velvet sky which for long winter months was often dull and grey.
Surely countless millions feel the same. For what other reasons would multitudes crowd the churches, cathedrals and chapels over most of the world on Easter Sunday?
Is there any wonder when Easter comes that we should want to change to bright and colourful array? The earth does that and as the heart runs to meet the spring, we, too, like to meet it in dress that honours such royalty.
But most of all, above everything else, Eastertime is a refreshing of the soul, a renewal of our love for God, of our Christian fellowship, and of our Christian vows.
We go to receive the great blessings that Easter brings, for the belief in a Risen Christ, for the special meaning that Easter has for hearts that believe.
Easter is a time for rejoicing. It is the promise and the power and the glory.
We Serve A Risen Saviour
All but four of the major world religions are based on mere philosophical propositions. Of the four that are based on personalities rather then philosophies, only Christianity claims an empty tomb for its founder. In 1900 BC Judaism's Father Abraham died. In 483 BC Buddhist writings say Buddha died. On June 6, 632 AD Mohammed died. In 33. in the year of our Lord, Jesus died but came back to life appearing to 500 people over a period of 40 days.
1 Corinthians 15, verse 14 states: "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."
Springtime is on our doorstep; the time of year when we start thinking about creepy, crawly caterpillars on the ground. We all have a childhood memory of picking up a caterpillar and watching it crawl slowly and softly across our hand. Time goes by, and the caterpillar goes into a cool place, a cocoon. It lives in that cocoon for what seems like forever to a child, and when the caterpillar emerges, it has become a beautiful butterfly.
On Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is typically the most well-attended Sunday service of the year for Christian churches. People come to church to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. Many consider Easter as the most holy of religious holidays.
The purpose of Easter is the victory celebration telling of the power of God. The power that took the dead body of Jesus and transformed Him, metamorphosed Him, transfigured Him into a glorious resurrection body. The purpose of Easter is God telling us He can create life out of death. The purpose of Easter is to convince us that creepy, crawly caterpillars become transformed into beautiful butterflies. The purpose of Easter is to convince us that there will be a time in our lives when we too shall be transformed into something absolutely beautiful and magnificent.
Easter should be more than just another holiday to a Christian. It is Resurrection Sunday, the Sunday set aside to recognize the resurrection of our Lord. God sent His word in the form of a child, born to the Virgin Mary as the only begotten Son of God. He lived a very short time on earth, having been a carpenter, and then a messenger for God. He was crucified, nailing all Our sins to the cross, covering them with His precious blood. If we believe in Him, accept His gift of salvation, then we too will see Him in all His glory one day.
I would like to share a butterfly story with you. This is a stoty from Dr. Kubler Ross and her book, Death and Dying. There was a little girl, a first grader, who was having trouble at school, and the teacher felt that she might be having emotional problems. The child was invited in to talk with a sensitive teacher. The school started to discover that this
little girl was handling enormous emotional challenges. Her mother was sick in the hospital and was dying of cancer. The little girl knew that something was very wrong, because she could see that her father was upset, and this, of course, made the little girl upset too. An appointment was set up for the little girl to meet with a psychologist. The little girl was asked to draw a picture. She drew a stick figure with red legs, and off to the side was a very black coloured square. The psychologist looked at the drawing and asked:
"Well, my little friend, what does your drawing mean?" The little girl explained that the stick figure was her mother and that the red legs meant that her mother would never be able to take her to the park again, because she knew her mother's legs were bleeding. "And what is that black square in the corner?" asked the psychologist. The little girl explained that the black square was the dining room table and that it was turned upside down. She said that her Mommy would not be able to eat meals with her again. Then the psychologist said, "you know that your mother is dying, don't you." The little girl replied "Yes." The psychologist asked the little girl if she would like to talk about it, and the little girl began to talk about the death of her mother. Towards the close of the conversation, the psychologist said to her, "Well, what it's going to be like is this: your mother will go into a cocoon and someday your mother will be like a butterfly." The little girl said, "Oh, that's wonderful that my Mommy will be like a butterfly, but butterflies flyaway, and I don't want Mommy to flyaway from me." The next day the psychologist got the little girl. They picked some daffodils and went to see the child's mother in the hospital. The little girl looked into the room, she hadn't seen her mother for such a long time. She ran into the room and giving her mother a big kiss and the bunch of daffodils, she whispered into her mother's ear, "Mommy, you're going to become like a butterfly." And the mother said, "I know, I know." And she hugged her little girl, smiled and cried.
This is a daffodil bulb. Have you ever seen anyone hold up a daffodil bulb and exclaim to you how beautiful it looks? Have you ever seen a vase of arranged daffodil bulbs displayed proudly in someone's home? Well, of course you haven't. Indeed, we would have to say that there is no comparison between the brown, dried bulb and the transformed, exquisite beauty of the daffodil flower. It is one of God's miracles. And so it is that the Good News of Easter is obvious. God does this a million times a day:
Transforming bulbs into flowers, caterpillars into butterflies ... transforming that which appears to be dead into a new, glorious life.
Easter is an invitation for us to believe like a child, to have childlike faith that the resurrection is true. The little first grader was told her mother would become like a butterfly, and the little girl believed it was true, that her mother would become like a butterfly. Easter is an invitation for us to believe like children, simply and naively to believe that God works great miracles, transforming caterpillars into butterflies, bulbs into daffodils, and earthly, physical bodies into everlasting spiritual bodies.
We all know that Easter is the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Christian tradition. It symbolically represents the most important event in the Christian calendar, and forms part of a longer Easter festival that includes Lent, as well as Jesus' life immediately before the Crucifixion. Easter also represents the symbolic rebirth of spring from winter, and a continuing celebration of annual growth and change.
1 Corinthians 15 tells of the resurrection of Christ. Paul explains why the resurrection is important to believers in a very practical way. Christ's resurrection is the central teaching of Christianity. According to Paul, if Christ wasn't resurrected, then Christianity is a complete sham; all who believe in Christ for salvation are still in their sins and to be pitied if Christ was not raised.
For those of us who are believers, the resurrection is extremely important. The resurrection of Christ is the ultimate reassurance to all believers that death has finally been defeated. We will all be resurrected, just as Christ was. Once we understand that Easter is a celebration of the defeat of death, we will fmally understand why we celebrate this Holy Day. Easter celebrates new life. Jesus was dead and buried, but the love of God is stronger and powerful than even death. God brought Jesus back to life to live with Him forever.
This is the moment that defines history and sets us free to be people of hope and forgiveness. The great mystery of faith is once again proclaimed to all the world - that all the world might listen and know the truth that Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. This is the centre and heart of our faith.
In Jesus' resurrection, God is doing something new. We have the answer to unlock all our problems - problems of abuse, violence, anger, work, money, and the list goes on. All these problems can be answered in the resurrection of Jesus and the new life He offers us. Living in the resurrection, a family can be suddenly transformed. Where there was once anger and hatred, the love of God and forgiveness can be the guiding principles.
Where can you see the living God? Where can you see the hope and new life that the women testified to on that day when they saw the empty tomb and knew that Jesus was alive? Where can you see that hope in a world that seems to be covered in the shadow of evil and hatred and revenge?
Where can we look for hope - The absolute assurance that God is with us and fills the heart with gifts of love and grace? We can look here, in this very room, for stories of new life and rebirth, of God's hope and grace. There are examples all around us: all the people whose faithful attendance at worship creates this community of faith. There IS hope in the world - there is faith in the world, but you must look for it and see the resurrection of Jesus in a new light - in the light of our own lives and the choices that we make.
The amazing choice is not the choices that we make, but the one that God makes for us. God chose us to be His ambassadors of love and grace and service. God chose us to instruct others, to show them that life has meaning, a meaning that is seen after we look into the tomb and realize that Jesus is alive; and because Jesus is alive, then we are also alive, alive to love and praise, alive to he servants of God, alive to be the ones who help change and shift the world away from the destruction and violence that seems to appear on our television screens as news every night.
The message of the empty tomb is still proclaimed - the empty tomb is still empty and the message of God's love is still here among us. Jesus is alive. His word is true and His identity as the one and only begotten Son of God is true and known to all. The tomb is empty, and God's love triumphs over human selfishness and hatred and forces of evil around us. We will always find hope in the empty tomb and the great proclamation of faith that Christ is risen.
I have one more butterfly story that I'd like to share with you. There was a caterpillar crawling across a Persian rug. The caterpillar crawled for what he thought was 75 years. He was crawling all over that Persian rug, but he could only see one colour at a time. First he saw the blues, and then the oranges, the yellows, the reds, the purples, the deep violets, the greens. He saw one colour at a time and said, "Oh, what a beautiful world I'm on. Look at all that colour." He lived for what he thought was a very long time, 60, 70, 80 years - a blink in God's time, but long for the caterpillar. Finally he crawled off the Persian rug and he became a cocoon and hibernated. Although he didn't realize, the cocoon was part of the miracle, and then there was another miracle and he came out of the cocoon as a butterfly, a monarch butterfly. He fluttered up higher and higher and he looked down at the Persian rug for the first time and saw it in its total magnificent splendour. What a sight he saw. For the first time in his existence, he saw the meaning of his whole life; he saw the past and the present like he had never seen it before ... and Jesus said, "Those who have hears to hear, listen to the meaning of this parable."
Easter is inviting us to believe in the powers of God to create magnificent new life, to believe the miracle that God transforms caterpillars into butterflies, to believe the miracle that God transforms earthly bodies into heavenly bodies. We must strive to live daily for Christ, serving Him by the power of His resurrected life. Our hearts should be so full of the joy of the Lord that it overflows into our daily life. Thanks be to God for a Risen Saviour!