Happy Easter: Paint the Damn House in Hope

Alleluia, Hurl Yourself over the Edge

Sarah Condon / 4.8.20

The other day our daughter did the math and realized that she will not have her long hoped for kindergarten Chuck E. Cheese birthday party. This is a time-honored tradition in our household. As people who give communion to newly baptized babies, it is perhaps the closest she gets to a First Communion she will remember. And I was so worried about her devastation.

Let’s be honest, Chuck E. Cheese will not be open by early May and it’s likely where this whole virus started. It is disgusting. But our daughter does not know that part.

My husband and I held our breath and then explained that her beloved mouse pizza prom was likely canceled.

She looked up at us with such hopefulness and said, “But I still get to have a family birthday, right? With cake! And a dance party! And you guys will buy me a ring?”

All I could think was whatever ring you want, peanut baby.

The church is coming up on our most celebrated feast. Easter is when we are at our absolute shiniest. We haul out fragrant lilies, organ music with brass and timpani, and brand-new floral print dresses. And we stand on a precipice utterly unsure of what to expect.

I’m here to tell you to hurl yourself over the edge.

Don’t get me wrong. I miss the hard wood of the pews. I miss my friends. I miss a good Easter egg hunt. But I will not have to miss that Jesus died and rose from the dead. That happened regardless of my wretched estate. And because of it.

This year I’m anticipating my grandmother’s pale pink bathrobe, Paul Simon roaring in the background (inexplicably, he has become my corona soundtrack), and something delicious made with Velveeta cheese. We will stream church over the internet. It will be awkward and not at all what we expected. But it will still be hopeful. If I have to paint the damn house in hope so help me God, I will.

I have been so moved by people doing unexpected things during this horrible time. People determined to go on living even in an awkward kind of hope. People are still having babies, making babies, proposing marriage, and even renewing their vows (I’m not a big fan of people writing their own vows for their first wedding, but maybe 11 years in it’s a great idea):

It is not how we expected these things to go. But the greatest antidote to abject fear is not bravery, it is hopefulness. It is knowing that death does not have the final word and then it is running into the freedom of that promise. And this is what makes Easter worth celebrating no matter how bizarre it may feel.

Were it not for the death and resurrection of Jesus, our religion would be a really great story about a kind-hearted rabbi who healed some people. Our religion would encourage care for the widow and the orphan. It might be known as a religion that taught people to be nice.

But Christianity is so much more than that. And Easter is our defining moment. Easter was made for moments like we find ourselves living in. We are one bat bite away from a zombie movie. We are one battleship away from war. Personally speaking, I am one sleepless night away from a mental health crisis.

And so this is the moment when Easter must be ushered into our homes.

We need light. So honey, haul out that vanilla-scented candle from the Target clearance section. She was made for such a time as this. And we need plants. So get all of those succulents you have been posting on Instagram and bring them into the light of the Lord. And we need music. Dolly, Paul Simon, and Mahalia Jackson on some kind of an unlikely Spotify matchup.

Towards the end of a funeral service in the Episcopal church, the minister has prescribed words to say. He or she stands by the body of the deceased and proclaims to the living, “Yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”

Over the past few weeks, I have clung to this vision of faithful praise in the midst of a pandemic. Where are we now if not in a grave, brother and sisters? Who are we if not afraid and losing hope?

It turns out that the grave might be the perfect place to have an awkward and hopeful Easter.

So celebrate Easter in whatever way makes your heart sing. But for God’s sake (and for yours), celebrate it. We need the promise of an alleluia right now. And the world needs it too.

Featured image: Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 3.0Wikimedia Commons.