Make Easter spiritually meaningful with these tips from Austin clergy


Beyond the egg hunts, candy-filled baskets and a famous bunny, there’s a spiritual reason for the Easter season.

We asked local clergy from different Christian denominations to help us remember the reason, as well as give us a sneak peek of the Easter message they will be sharing this holiday and tips to make the holiday more meaningful.

What is your message for Easter?

The Rev. John Elford, University United Methodist Church: The message of Easter is that Jesus is Lord and the powers of the world that crucified him are not. The resurrection is God’s “No” to the violence and domination of the world’s powers and God’s “Yes” to radical love and peace, to a world of justice where war is no more, where everyone has enough and no one lives in fear.

Bishop Joe Vásquez, Diocese of Austin: We may experience the risen Jesus as we remember his triumph over sin and death; and through the resurrection of Jesus all fears are overcome and we receive the promise of eternal life, a gift that God freely gives. God offers his life — the divine life — through his son, Jesus.

The Rev. Dr. Paul Escamilla, Saint John’s United Methodist Church: God’s love outlasts any and all hatred, God’s gift of life is stronger than death and God’s good purposes in the world are more enduring than evil.

The Rev. T. Carlos “Tim” Anderson, St. John’s/San Juan Lutheran Church: As a northerner who has lived in Texas for the past 25 years, I’ve always been intrigued by the cilantro plant in my winter garden. So delicate, but it survives cold, frost and snow only to seed out and die when the weather turns warm. It reminds me so much of the cycle of death and resurrection. I will be preaching at a bilingual gathering Easter morning on San Antonio’s River Walk and will reference the beloved cilantro plant, appreciated by Texans of various ethnic heritages.

The Rev. Aurelia Pratt, Peace of Christ Church: My message can be summed up in a poem:

Wake up! Live! Christ is resurrected, and now he resurrects you!

What should we remember about the reason for this season?

Elford: The point of the resurrection is not whether a dead body was raised long ago, but whether the body of Christ can be raised into new lives of compassion and courage as we follow the risen Jesus.

Vásquez: In the Catholic tradition we consider every Sunday a “little Easter” as we celebrate what Jesus did for us. Each Sunday we celebrate the Lord Jesus’ Passion, death and Resurrection. It is in giving that we receive … it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Easter is not just a day; it is a season. Lent, leading up to Easter, lasts 40 days, but the season of Easter is celebrated for eight weeks or 50 days.

Escamilla: If we say love is born at Christmas, then we might say that love is borne at Easter. The love of God is revealed in the joy and wonder, delight and discovery of the birth of Christ; and the love of God is revealed at Easter in the struggle and courage, compassion and self-surrender of Jesus’ abandonment, suffering, death and Resurrection. God’s love for the world is both tender and tenacious.

T. Carlos Anderson: Easteris the Christian contribution to the overall religious understanding that goodness is stronger than evil, and that life conquers death. A cynic and a religious person agree: Death is all around us, but the religious person understands that somehow life wins out over death. Science agrees — life has a 3.8 billion year foothold on this planet.

Pratt: As people of faith, we are called not just to worship a resurrected savior, but also to live as resurrected people. This means participating in the work of the church to bring the kingdom of heaven to Earth now. This is the work of service, inclusiveness, equality and breaking down barriers. It is the work of love toward ALL of creation, and it is the natural response to the miracle of the Resurrection. To participate in this work is the most powerful evidence Christians can give for the truth of the Resurrection. So: Wake up! Live! Christ is resurrected! And now he resurrects you!

What Easter traditions can families incorporate that go beyond Easter eggs and bunnies?

Elford: What seems missing from family Easter traditions is attention to the actual Easter story. Perhaps families could read the story of the Resurrection from one of the gospels and wonder about the characters. What were the disciples feeling after Jesus’ death? What did the women talk about as they came to the tomb? Why were they frightened? How did the presence of the risen Jesus affect them and even change them? I think we shy away from these kinds of questions because to ponder them is to enter into a potentially life-transforming experience.

Vásquez: This is a season of celebrating the risen Lord whom we experience in the Mass in sacrament, word, minister and people. Other traditions are going to church and buying new clothes to celebrate the good news that “Jesus has risen!” Another excellent way is sharing a special meal with family and friends, especially after fasting for 40 days. Various cultures celebrate differently with special foods. We also experience the Lord around the tables with our family and friends.

Escamilla: Families can gather with the faith community across the seven-weekEasterseason in all the ways that finds expression, including weekly worship, where the “Alleluia” resounds beyondEasterday. At home, signs of life and new birth in nature are all around us in the Northern Hemisphere, and making time to explore these can yield marvels and insights for young and old alike. Finally, children and families facing adversity of some kind can be encouraged in their resilience by discovering in theEasternarrative a companion story of adversity overcome.

Anderson: Increasingly, holidays are over-commercialized in our society. I did have Easter egg and candy hunts for my children when they were small, and I understand not all restaurant workers celebrate Easter. Nevertheless, my preferred Easter ritual is a home-cooked family meal at the dining room table where the wonderful smell of the food mixes with the sweet fragrance of the Easter lilies (purchased before Sunday!).

Pratt: Take what you are already doing and make it meaningful! Create a Stations of the Cross trail in your yard, and walk it together as a family on Good Friday. Purchase a coloring book that tells the story of Easter and have your kids color a page each day during Holy Week. Place symbols of the Passion events in your Easter eggs instead of candy, and then walk through the story of Easter together after the hunt. Take up a family collection throughout the season of Lent, and on Easter celebrate through the act of almsgiving to a predetermined organization.



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