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2024 Easter Message from Bishop Russell

There is a story told about a teacher who asked her students what Jesus first said on Easter after he was raised from the dead. The Baptist and Methodist children in the class quickly raised their hands-"Greetings” one answered. “That is true.” The teacher replied. “What else?” “Peace be with you” said another. “Do not be afraid.” Then the teacher called on the only Episcopalian in the room. “Sally, do you know what Jesus said on Easter?” And little Sally, not knowing as much of the Bible as her classmates boldly replied, “I think Jesus threw out his arms and said ‘TA-DA.’”

Today is Easter Monday and I wanted this message to find you on this day, not because it’s April Fool’s Day. In the Orthodox Church there is a tradition for people to gather on this day and tell jokes. The premise underlying the tradition is that Easter is God’s greatest surprise, or joke.

And if you think about it, laughter is not only good for the soul, it is a proclamation of hope and life. I have been with families gathered under the shroud of death and grief, and someone dares to remember something funny about their loved one who is dying. And everyone laughs. The atmosphere changes. The shroud is lifted. Light and life enter. That is the power of laughter. Laughter frees us. Laughter can heal us.

So, in the spirit of a good laugh, I want to share an invitation to a Holy Easter. It was composed by the staff I worked with while serving the people of Saint Stephens in Birmingham. It emerged out of a staff meeting when we were pondering ways to deepen the ongoing experience of Easter beyond just the first Sunday.

It was intended as well as a balance to the somber invitation to a Holy Lent that we recite on Ash Wednesday. We read it aloud at the beginning of every Sunday service during the Easter season.

As a church, we do Lent very well. But what about doing Easter even better? What might we take on or give up that would strengthen our Easter faith? How might you emphasize that Easter is a season? Don’t stop at simply saying Alleluia on Sunday. How might you express on Wednesday the relentless love given to us in the resurrection of Christ Jesus? How can you take God’s joy to someone who is locked up in fear?

So here is the invitation to a Holy Easter. This invitation goes forth to you with my prayer that your Easter season will be one of unbridled hope, spontaneous acts of love, contagious joy, and the wondrous gift of laughter.

Dear People of God: Christ is risen, and we are raised with Him!

Death is not the end, for He is Risen!

Do not be afraid.

Let the celebration begin!

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a Holy Easter.

The Easter Feast is not one Sunday, but rather it runs the entire 50 days right up to Pentecost.

50 days, dwarfing the paltry 40 days of Lent!

So let us greet our 50 Days of Easter feasting

with more intention and more enthusiasm than we put into our Lenten fast!!

And to make a right beginning, stand up before the Lord, lift your hands to heaven, and laugh!

Put on your dancing shoes and cut loose with some joy!

And not just at church.

Run up and spontaneously hug people; yes, even those guys who don’t hug!

Tell jokes to strangers!

Go outside and play in the Sun!

Laugh until you cry!

Put on your rain boots and go stomping through puddles!

Make dessert mandatory!

Wash away your ashes of Lent and dye your hair purple!

Cast off your sackcloth and wear a tuxedo or ball gown to work or school!

Be a fool for Christ!

Sing like no one is listening!

Shout “Halleluiah!” for unconditional love and joy are the order of the next 50 days!

Life abundant has been given to you in the form of grace by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Easter is our time to hand out grace!

Be bold with your joy, and don’t hide it under a bushel basket!

The greatest danger of Lent is to never leave the Cross, for the Cross is not the end of the story.

He has been raised! And we are too! We are resurrection people!

The Lord is risen indeed!

Live, Love, Laugh, Praise, Sing, Give Joy, and thank God,

for through Christ, eternal life is yours!



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