Sinatra originally made it popular, but Al Bundy made it famous. The song was “Love and Marriage” and it was the intro music for the show Married …with Children. Remember that one? I admit to watching it occasionally, but mostly when I was working at a Fox TV station that aired the show in syndication. Quality, family programming, huh?
One of my favorite lines from that song is “This I tell ya, brother, ya can’t have one without tha… other.” Although our culture today would definitely say Ol’ Blue Eyes was wrong about marriage (that’s another post!), it brings to mind the connected relationships of Lent and Easter. “Ya can’t have one without tha… other.”
On Ash Wednesday I saw a tweet that basically said that all we need is Easter. I remember a friend in high school who said Lent was works-based righteousness and that she wasn’t Catholic. I can see both perspectives, but that is only one piece of the equation. The Resurrection at Easter is the culmination of Jesus’s earthly ministry and His victory over sin and death. But we’re still in a struggle with sin and death, right? That’s what Lent is about.
At Lent I step aside from the routine of my everyday life to take a posture of reflection and repentance so that I can refocus and rededicate myself to my Savior. Without a humble attitude of repentance, I am doing nothing more than gazing at the cross as a passive observer. The cross was a place of shame, injustice, violence, arrogance, etc. Yes. I need Easter, but I need to leave all that junk there at Calvary so that Easter is the celebration that it should be! “Ya can’t have one without the other.” But there’s a bit more…
I’ll admit to my own shortsightedness of making Easter the “be all end all.” I said the sinners prayer. I’m good. But without understanding the man that I was, without seeing my need for repentance, without trusting the Lord to change my heart and transform my mind, my soteriology ends up being a bit flat. It also sells short the rest of one’s life and calling after that moment of justification at the foot of the cross.
Ultimately I think we have to see Easter as a new beginning to the story rather than the climax of God’s plan of reconciliation. Believing in Easter and giving our life to Christ starts the process/journey toward being made righteous/sinless. We can’t immediately stop sinning, but the Holy Spirit can give us the strength to turn our back on sin and selfishness and point our lives toward the center of the target.
And here is where I have also fallen short. Easter is not just about you and I. Easter begs the question, “So what!?!” If you have a reason to celebrate at Easter, what does the rest of your life look like? Like everyone else’s? Uh, it shouldn’t (I say that with as much humility and encouragement as I can!). If nothing has changed since your resurrection moment, it’s like gazing at the empty tomb as a passive observer.
So I hope that maybe my own shortsightedness can help you see more clearly the trajectory that you may be on. Leave your junk at the cross (Lent). Come celebrate what Jesus has done for you and everyone who accepts His gracious gift (Easter). Then get to work in your corner of the world, and live more and more like Jesus (reconciliation) …and less and less like Al Bundy.
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! Keep looking above and loving beyond.
For more information that is biblically based, I’d encourage you to explore what the Bible says about stuff like this. Check out Psalm 51, 2 Corinthians 5:14-21, Hebrews 12:1-13 and see Luke 22:1 through 24:12 for an account of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection.