Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Eggs and other signs

 A reflection on the Gospel of Luke 24:1-12 for Easter morning, year C

The darkness of Good Friday has passed. The pain and suffering of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is over.

The tomb is split open and Jesus is on the move again. In this parish we symbolize the signs of the resurrection in a variety of ways.

Gone is the simplicity of Lent, the barren features of our worship space and the glass chalices.

Gone is the hearty rye bread and the dry burgundy wine.

In its place we have our finest silver, and a light white bread with a sweet wine.

Gone are the dried sunflowers and rocks.

And the chest at the foot of the altar….

All of Lent this chest has been closed and locked,

holding within it the “Allelulia’s” our children created,

and symbolizing Jesus’ tomb…..

Now  - with the celebration of Easter the chest is burst open, the Allelulia’s are released,

(and proclaimed in beautiful array on the bulletin board in the hallway)…

the chest has fallen to its side,  eggs pouring out.

Easter eggs are a primary sign of Easter. They come from a very long, ancient custom in which eggs were a symbol of new life.

Decorated eggs come from an ancient Persian custom for celebrating the New Year, which falls on the Spring Equinox around March 20th.

Persians still celebrate this New Year with decorated eggs.

The ancient Hebrews, who lived under Persian rule for many years, adopted the use of eggs as a symbol of new life and incorporated them into the Passover Seder meal, a symbol of God doing a new thing by freeing God’s people.

And the ancient Romans used eggs as a part of their spring celebrations of new life. Eggs (and rabbits) are both ancient symbols of fertility.

There is even a story about Mary Magdalene and eggs.

Mary Magdalene, faithful disciple who stayed with Jesus to the end.

Mary Magdalene who discovered, on Easter Day, that Jesus was missing and ran to tell the rest of the disciples that Jesus was on the move again.

As the story goes - one day Mary Magdalene went to Rome to see the Emperor Tiberius.

She took with her an egg and began to tell the Emperor about the resurrection.

The Emperor scoffed at her, saying that a person could no more rise from the dead  than the egg in her hand could turn red.

At which point the egg in her hand promptly turned red.

The Greek Orthodox believe that the color red has protective power. 

When people in the Orthodox Church gather after the Easter services,
(hard boiled) eggs are blessed and given to all. 

The worshipers then go about greeting one another with "Christ is Risen!", and hitting their eggs together, cracking them open.

Breaking the eggs emphasizes that Christ has conquered death and is risen, granting new life to all.
After cracking, the eggs are eaten, symbolizing the end of the Lenten fast.

On Friday we held a Stations of the Cross for kids.  At the last station we dyed Easter eggs in cups filled with dye and water and vinegar. Over forty kids gathered, heard the story of the life of Jesus, learned about God’s love, walked around this building as we traveled the Stations of the Cross, and at the end we dyed Easter eggs.

Did you know that the way to make red eggs is to boil eggs in water with the skin of yellow onions, the darker the skin the better, and a little vinegar?

Boiled eggs were a common food served in Jesus’ day. And so the tradition around the red egg grew. A whole red egg symbolizes Jesus’ passion and death. A cracked red egg symbolizes new life.

Including the red egg story ancient Christians adopted other pagan myths and Jewish customs for spring, for new life, and reinterpreted them through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Today after our service we will have an Easter Egg Hunt for the kids. Not your old fashioned egg hunt, like when I was a kid and my parents hid our hard boiled eggs and we had to find them. No, these are plastic eggs filled with sweet treats. I’ve heard we have some 200 eggs and in a little while Monica will give some instruction on where to find the Easter egg hunt.

So we have reinterpreted one more sign of the resurrection, that sweet gift of new life, through the sweetness of candy filled egg treats. Kids young and old alike can crack open their Easter eggs and proclaim with joy and delight,

 “Alleluia! Christ is risen!”

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