There is an Easter bunny at our house. The irony of the pagan fertility symbolism and name and rituals is not lost on me.
The question is often asked how bunnies who lay eggs are related to Jesus dying on the cross and rising from the dead. I can’t do a whole lot with the bunny imagery unless we are discussing sexuality with the oldest daughter, but the eggs we can use to talk about Jesus.
This is what the church has done throughout history. We find objects and images around us to speak to the world about the good news of Jesus without losing ourselves in the world. We take the items that people already have around them and infuse them with sacred meaning. Or I suppose you could say we steal from other traditions and shape them to tell the story that we believe brings life and healing. There really is very little that the church hasn’t used at some point to try and direct people from destructive ways to the life-giving story of Jesus’ love.
We have Easter egg hunts because we can talk about the egg and new life. We can talk about the surprise and thrill of what it is like for life to emerge from something that seems so hopeless and impossible. If you have ever watched a chick break through its shell, it really does give you an appreciation for della Francesca’s painting of the raised Jesus who looks exhausted. He looks like someone who has seen and known the suffering and sorrow of death, but continues to be the presence of eternal love even when it means breaking out of a tomb.
But, we will not have gone to the Easter egg hunt on Saturday this year. Zach Gordon always does a fabulous job organizing it, but the craziness in the Colorado egg hunt made me think again about some of the emotions and reactions that I experienced at the last hunt. I will only speak for myself, but last year when I heard my own voice telling some kid to get back behind the line — the whistle hadn’t blown yet, I saw a red flag. I could feel my anxiety rise as we stood on the edge of the field covered with a bazillion eggs. My 5-year-old wasn’t going to get his fair share of cheap candy. Did that thought really go through my head? I obviously wasn’t alone, and watching the jostling of parents and kids, I felt sick. Hearing the stories out of Colorado Springs where they had to cancel the egg hunt, I feel even sicker.
I don’t mind borrowing pagan rituals, names and symbols to talk about new and abundant life. They really do go well together. But, I absolutely refuse to borrow the mindset and images of the religion of consumerism. I will take full responsibility for my feelings of greed and I want no part. I will not redeem our false sense of scarcity that leads us to push, shove, and knock 4-year-olds down (I didn’t do that, mind you). I don’t mind procreating bunnies, but I will not stand for greed, fear, and consumption to symbolize the outpouring of love that Jesus lives out in the cross and resurrection.
We’ll have an Easter egg hunt, but it will be in the context of a story about Jesus who gave his life in love and lives again so we may know that ultimately love does have the last word. Fear, greed and cheap candy will all fade, but love will outlast even the plastic eggs.
• Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.