Several decades ago, I heard an Easter sermon by Bill Coffin in which he reminded us that there is nothing sentimental about Easter; that we dare not forget that resurrection is not only a promise, it is also a demand.
This is what he said:
“Picture, if you will, the disciples shortly after Good Friday. Surely they were grief-stricken. But doubtlessly, too, they were experiencing that sense of relief that comes with resignation from the struggle. ‘Well, we tried hard, but the Establishment was too powerful. He wasn’t elected king. So it’s back to fishing, to business as usual.’”
“And then comes the word, ‘He’s back.’ ‘Oh no, not again.’”
I don’t know about you but for me, at least, that statement strikes home. Promise is much easier to live with than demand.
It is certainly true. For those of us who are Christians, Easter is indeed a promise; that love is stronger than death, that love never dies, and that living within that promise rejuvenates and transforms. But Coffin is surely right; that unless we understand that Easter is also demand, our resurrection faith loses its promise and degenerates all too quickly into sentimentality.
So today, despite the ever-present temptation to go fishing, let’s use the promise of Easter as a stimulus to increased responsibility and to support and stand alongside those who hurt in the continuing struggle for a more just and merciful and peaceful world.
We at Interfaith Worker Justice are trying to do just that. Living within the promise and seeking to respond to the demand, we are standing alongside undocumented immigrants as together we seek a just resolution to their current plight. We are seeking to help build a society wherein all who seek work at a fair wage can find that work. We are advocating for a raise in the minimum wage so that the working poor can support themselves and their families. We are well aware that the changes we and many others seek will not come easily. The challenges are huge. But we believe also that by standing together we can overcome. Please join with us. We need your presence among us.
The promise of the resurrection is that love is real; that love can overcome the hatred and indifference that threaten to consume and deny and destroy. But along with promise comes demand. Promise without demand is sentimentality. Promise with demand is life transforming.
The Rev. Paul Sherry is the President of Interfaith Worker Justice's National Board of Directors. Sherry served the President of the United Church of Christ from 1989 to 1999, and from 2003 to 2007 as the Coordinator of the Anti-Poverty Program of the National Council of Churches.