Easter Day is this Sunday, April 4. The date of Easter moves around a lot, since its timing is determined by the phases of the moon and the Spring equinox.
April 4 is a significant day for another reason. On this day in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Memphis, Tennessee, to support a strike by the city’s sanitation workers and was fatally shot by James Earl Ray as he stood on the second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel. King was 39 years old.
Because of the phases of the moon and the Spring equinox, Easter will not land on April 4 again until the year 2083. So, some comment seems to be appropriate as the anniversary of King’s death and Easter coincide for the last time in a long while.
For the last several years, the cover of Easter bulletins at All Saints’ has featured a quote from James A. Forbes, Senior Minister Emeritus of The Riverside Church in New York City. It says Easter is “God’s Class Action Suit Against Sin and Death.” The quote is different from what one usually sees on church bulletins for Easter – lilies, flowered crosses, words like “Alleluia!” or “Rejoice!” I am not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with such representations. I am suggesting that the phrase “God’s Class Action Suit Against Sin and Death” captures much more accurately what Easter is really about.
Easter is not a spring festival, or the renewal of nature after a long winter, as welcome as those may be. Easter is about how God took on sin and death . . . and won.
Two weeks ago today, I stood at the corner of South Avers and 16th Street in North Lawndale. Across the street from where I was standing, Dr. King moved his family into an apartment in 1966 to protest the redlining and contract buying practices that denied black residents the opportunity to own homes. I was there for the groundbreaking of the model home made possible by the Greenlining Campaign. It was a small, but important, symbol of God’s Easter victory.
After the groundbreaking, Denita Robinson, a North Lawndale resident and newly trained community organizer, told a member of our group that the groundbreaking was powerful because it made all the hard work up to that point real. She said it was a like the start of dominoes. Because of the groundbreaking, she really believed the next 1,000 houses was going to happen. The first shovel going into the ground was, for her, a tangible sign of hope.
As Christians, we believe that God’s love, having suffered the worst that human beings can do, overcame sin and death – that God raised Jesus and made the whole creation new. I don’t know about you, but after this past year I long for more and more tangible signs of hope – more evidence of God’s victory. And I am committing myself – again – to be part of God’s class action suit against all the powers of evil that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.
How about you?
Happy Easter! God won! Alleluia!