“We are Easter people.”
It seems like a funny phrase, doesn’t it? Especially considering all the commerciality that has come to surround the Easter holiday – pastel eggs, more varieties of candy than you could ever imagine (unless, of course, you happen to be Willy Wonka), brightly colored baskets filled with toys and trinkets, a giant omnipresent bunny (huh??), and that plastic grass that is the bane of every parent’s very existence. In our increasingly secular and consumer-driven society, this is what Easter has become.
And yet in the church, we proclaim, “We are Easter people!”
But what does that even mean?
Being Easter people means being people of belief. The gospels all tell a slightly different story about who found the empty tomb and when and how, but they all include an element of belief in the face of a cogently unbelievable event. Considering what the disciples and all of Jesus’ other followers had been through, we certainly cannot blame them for their moments of confusion and incredulity. We may even find ourselves resonating more with Thomas who doubted than with the unnamed beloved disciple in John who saw the emptiness of the tomb and immediately believed. But eventually those in all the gospel tellings of the resurrection believed. They believed in the resurrection itself. They believed in Jesus as the Son of God. They believed. Even those who did not see believed. And we who centuries later cannot see with our eyes must believe, and in believing, we become Easter people.
Being Easter people means being people of conviction. I can only imagine what it must have been like for those who first encountered the empty tomb to bring that news back to the rest of Jesus’ followers. They were probably anxious. They were probably excited. They were probably worried their friends might think they had lost their minds. This plays out in Luke’s gospel: “When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. … but they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” Did the rest of Jesus’ followers laugh at them? Did they ridicule them? Whatever reception their remarkable tale received, none of the gospels tell us that the women who found the empty tomb ever recanted their story. The gospels tell us they were afraid, yes. But shining through that fear was their conviction in the miraculous thing that they had witnessed. They knew their story was outlandish. They knew their story was unbelievable. But they knew their story was true, and they dared to cling to that truth in the face of unbelief.
Being Easter people means being people of hope. Jesus had been dead for three whole days. Before that, he had been arrested, mocked, beaten, tortured, and publicly humiliated. That’s a whole lot of darkness to be dealing with – a whole lot of pain and turmoil and distress. But out of the midst of that darkness and distress stepped a risen Christ, a Christ who had overcome even the cold finality of the grave to restore God’s everlasting grace to all people. In this one profound and holy act, we find a ray of hope stronger and more powerful than any darkness that we will encounter. It is the hope that accompanies all forms of new life from a newly-planted garden to a newborn baby – a hope immersed in possibilities and blessings and unmitigated intentions. It is vivid and sure. It is strong and warm. It is whole and holy. It is hope.
And so when we declare on Easter morning that we are, indeed, Easter people, we do so expressing our belief, clinging to our conviction, and radiating hope.
We are Easter people! Hallelujah!
 Lk 24:11 (NIV).