Easter reflections

March 23, 2023 | Feature | Volume 27 Issue 6
An Easter turtle in Mampujan, Colombia. (Photo by Anna Vogt)

We asked 10 people for their most meaningful Easter memory, or an image that best captures the essence of Easter, or what Easter makes them wonder.

Holy Week turtle soup
When I lived in the Colombian community of Mampujan, I was part of planning a commemorative event to mark 12 years of displacement. Armed groups had forcibly displaced the community right around the time of Holy Week, so for our commemorative event we included a traditional Holy Week meal involving turtle soup. The soup was meant to be a surprise, so members of the planning group secretly stored live turtles in backyards around the community.

Mampujan was also the first community in Colombia to receive a court order for reparations, so hopes were high that a date for reparations, or even reparations themselves, would be announced by government officials.

Sadly, there were no reparations and the meal was a disaster, as clandestinely buried turtles were dying before they could make it into the pot.

Two weeks later, a friend excitedly called me to her backyard. A turtle must have laid eggs and two baby turtles had hatched. I clung to that resurrection image and was thrilled to be part of the moment when, about a year later, community members lined up to be the first people in Colombian history to get reparation cheques.

I keep a photo of one of those baby turtles above my desk as a reminder to pay attention to resurrection.
—Anna Vogt, Ottawa

Sweet goodness
My neighbour, one street over in our small town, will open his deck door and blow an air horn every time the Chicago Blackhawks score a goal during the NHL playoffs. It wasn’t until this had happened many times that I finally connected the noise with the playoffs. On Easter Sunday morning, I have taken to going outside, as the sun is cresting the horizon, and shouting “Jesus is alive! Sweet goodness!”

In those five words there is joyous hope for me and all of creation that our redeemer has come to reconcile, restore, renew and redeem all of this. I wonder, however, who might hear this proclamation and put together “Jesus is alive” and “Sweet goodness.”

What does Jesus being alive even mean to a world that is flooded with bunnies and Easter eggs? How might sweet, good news of Jesus being alive sound to people who have experienced the church as a place of intense focus on correct beliefs and proper behaviour? What might it take for the risen Jesus to be received as sweet goodness in the hearts of all who happen to hear our proclamations and testimony?
—Andrew Wiens, Winnipegosis, Man.

Good Friday disconnect
I began attending a Mennonite church almost 20 years ago. I had been raised and educated as a Roman Catholic theologian, but reached a point where I was no longer able to live within Catholicism’s steadfast patriarchy. I felt incredibly welcome in my new church community, and I felt no theological disconnect with our worship services—until Good Friday.

The leader that morning asked the congregation to turn and kneel with our arms rested on our chairs. That meant congregants needed to turn their backs on the beautiful cross behind our altar. I was shocked and distressed: turning backs to the cross—on Good Friday of all days—seemed to me to spurn the solemnity of the service. After all, we were there to remember the death of Jesus of Nazareth, a man who loved (and was loved by) his family and friends, who gathered a group of disciples, who travelled throughout the region preaching and healing, and who spoke of God and the afterlife in new ways.

The joyous miracle of Jesus’ resurrection is a miracle beyond our imaginations. But I wonder how fully we can grasp the resurrection without first absorbing the whole impact of Jesus’ death. I wonder how Easter Sunday can be enriched by focusing first on the gift of Good Friday.
—Ginny Freeman, Waterloo, Ont.

Huddled at dawn
My most meaningful Easter memory covers many of the Easters I have experienced in my six-plus decades of life: the sunrise service. From the time I was a teenager, I have been attending sunrise services. This involved:

  • Getting up early to drive to the site in the dark so we could experience the sunrise together;
  • The camaraderie of being together to celebrate Christ’s resurrection with the traditional greeting of “Christ is risen,” and response, “He is risen indeed!”; and
  • Huddling together in the cold and holding the music for our intrepid guitarist who accompanied our singing with bare fingers while we all shivered around a fire that just wasn’t quite warm enough.

Prior to COVID-19, our church would invite the sunrise service participants to church after the service for a breakfast of Paska, sometimes with a bonus of the wonderful spread. Unfortunately, it’s been a few years since we’ve had a sunrise service, and Easter doesn’t quite feel the same.
—Gerhard Epp, Winnipeg

Easter resurrection came unexpectedly to the Metis community of Manigotagan, Man., on the east shore of Lake Winnipeg when my family lived there. My husband Neill and I led an active Sunday School program. With Lent approaching, we decided on a project that would get the children more involved leading up to Easter. The first week of Lent we challenged three boys to go into the deep snow across the road from the chapel and find a dead branch with several “arms.” Another group went to the nearby shed to get some rocks. The rest of the children wondered what was going on, and several noticed the empty pail on the stage.

The branch the boys found was “planted” in the pail—no water, no soil, just a dead branch propped up in the pail. The rocks were used to keep it upright.

Each week the children attached a colourful symbol and a Scripture verse to the branch. The dead Lenten branch became a focal point each Sunday as the children showed their parents what they had been doing.

On Easter morning everyone had a big surprise. The branch was no longer dead, it was alive with many buds! No one was more surprised than Neill and I! It was an Easter miracle that helped emphasize the message of resurrection.
—Edith von Gunten, Winnipeg

Peace entombed
Easter makes me wonder about possibilities. Who would have thought that Jesus would rise from the dead? Who could have even imagined? This gives me hope that we can imagine new ways of living in community with each other, and creative ways of addressing conflict and violence.

Who says we have to follow the world’s rules of war planes, tanks and bombs? Justice and peace may, in fact, be waiting in the tomb, ready for resurrection. I wonder what that will look like and I wonder when it will come, but for now, I will continue to roll away the stone with all my might.
—Hannah Redekop, Community Peacemaker Teams, Amman, Jordan

Touched by light
I grew up in the Bergthal Mennonite Church, outside Carstairs, Alta. When I was in youth, one of the activities was an Easter Sunday sunrise service. We had several places we could use for the services, but my favourite one was held in our summer cattle pasture. There is a grove of diamond willow trees, and a quiet clearing inside. My dad went out to set up bales and dig a fire pit. The service was led by the youth, but everyone was invited. We gathered in the early hours around the fire, huddled together in the dark and cold. It was always a bit hushed, and then there would be a story, singing, scriptures and prayer, and then the best part: the sun would start to rise. The first hint of colour would creep into the east, then it would go from dark to light and it was a moment of complete and utter joy. Right away it felt warmer as the sun touched us. The hope of the day ahead and meaning of it dawned on us, Christ is risen!
—Joani Neufeldt, Lethbridge, Alta.

Confession and love
Easter of my childhood was marked by extended family gatherings and joyful church services. Now, in fear and trembling, I must confess I wonder whether the resurrection is essential to my faith, which has been evolving for decades. I have been examining each of the components of what it means to be a Christian, to make my life in God my own and not just the faith of my fathers. I have more questions than ever, but still I feel lured and pursued to relate with the God who is the greatest love.
—Wendy Suddaby, Victoria, B.C.

Echoes of new life
The Easter memories that keep surfacing for me are stories that echo the new life and great joy of Easter. One was the week before Easter, when a church member who’d experienced a fall and brain bleed passed the “cookie test” and could eat solid food again, thereby relying less on a feeding tube. That individual was also able to move back home that week. Having walked with the family, it was a joyous week and a joy to be able to share that good news with the congregation Easter morning. Christ is risen!

The second story happened during the Easter season, when I lived near Cleveland, Ohio. The whole city erupted in joy at the escape of Amanda Berry, Michelle Wright and Gina DeJesus, who had been kidnapped a decade earlier. The unimaginable had happened. Those taken and feared dead, were alive!
—Rachel Siemens, Edmonton

The face of Easter
I recall an Easter children’s time in worship. One of us portrayed Simon Peter and put the kids under a blanket to feel the dark and sadness at Jesus’ death. After a time, “Mary Magdalene” came running in from the back shouting with joy, “He is alive! He is alive!” Simon Peter was duly scolded for hiding under the blanket with the children. “Mary” grabbed the blanket (which had been strategically sewn with Velcro) and ripped it off the kids to let in the light. “He’s alive! Come and see!” Mary shouted, and we all ran to the back where we handed out daffodils. I still recall the feeling of joy that washed over me as I ripped off the blanket and looked at all those beautiful faces.
—Lois Siemens, Saskatoon 

An Easter turtle in Mampujan, Colombia. (Photo by Anna Vogt)

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