What would Jesus do on Easter Sunday? As I stood under the bridge in downtown Austin, a man balancing his hamburger, chips, and a drink walked straight to me. “Will you hold my cigarette?” For a nanosecond I processed the request, then I carefully took his lighted cigarette which freed him to reshuffle his food and drink.
Jen Hatmaker, next to me, kindly guided him to a place at the table where others were eating. I followed. After a little flurry to get him settled, Jen turned and took the cigarette from me to hand to him. Jen is apparently at ease in this choreography of caring—her church has served an Easter meal to this downtown Austin community of friends for ten years now.
Though I am at home in any LGBTQI setting, this is not my usual digs. “Your head is on a swivel,” she told me when I commented on her ease. I could see that, having watched her engage with any of the hundreds of people here for this event as they ate, received new socks and athletic shoes from the bed of a pickup, and enjoyed conversation, live music, and dancing.
This is Easter, when Christians are supposed to celebrate Jesus as their risen Savior. I know Jesus. He’s the one who said, “When you serve the least of these, you serve me.” By least of these Jesus meant the poor, the friendless, the homeless, the rejected, the outcast. Not least in value, but least in the eyes of the world.
He was at ease in settings like this, perfectly at home with those the world considers least. He said other radical things, like, “The last will be first and the first will be last.” Also, that startling idea, “They’ll know you’re my disciples by your love.”
Countless Christians spent their Easter Sunday in a nice, big church, the beauty—and cost—of which the rest of the world cannot even imagine. I’m pretty sure many of them never gave a thought to the rest of the world, especially those marginalized and oppressed, especially those with whom they disagree or just find disagreeable.
The teachings of the nonaffirming evangelical church have very little to do with the risen Jesus.
That’s just the hard truth. And that’s how we often do Easter in America.
Someone says, “He is risen!” And we respond, “He is risen indeed!” But, lately, I want to respond, “Really? Then where’s your joy?… Has he risen just for you or for everyone?… And why so much fear of those different from you?”
As I watched Jen, her Austin New Church, and her downtown friends enjoy food, fun, and fellowship, where a cool breeze and strains of Stevie Wonder swirled in the air, I couldn’t think of a better place to be.
I am absolutely certain Jesus would join us.
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