It occurred to me suddenly as I sat at my morning table, coffee and cigarette in hand, that today is Easter Day. And so, Happy Easter. Selamat Hari Paskah, as they say in Indonesian.
Dia Bangkit ... Dia telah bangkit. He is risen. He is risen indeed.
This is the central day of the Christian faith, not Christmas--for on Christmas we celebrate his birth, while on Easter we celebrate the victory for which he was born. For if Christ is not risen, as the apostle Paul said, your faith is in vain. Go home. Forget it.
Easter, I believe, is the day on which church is most highly attended. There are many that come just that one day of the year. It is therefore very important to the local church all across the world, both in a monetary sense and in an evangelical sense. In fact, back in the days when I regularly attended church, I and my family did not attend on Easter, for it was a day, in our particular church, for introducing non-churched people to the faith in which we already resided.
Here in Indonesia, I have very rarely attended church. For a while, we attended one in Sanur, an English speaking church composed mostly of westerners, and too much, I thought, like a club for wealthy white people. There are, of course, Indonesian churches, but I would certainly find the sermons beyond my ready abilities in the language. Not that the sermons matter that much. The great strength of church is in fellowship, a sharing of the Christ residing in every heart.
But it is not about church. And Easter is not about church. It is about the living Christ. And that is an every day matter; for He is for all time, every day, crucified and resurrected.
I was chatting not long ago with a young woman here. She had just come from one of the countless Hindu ceremonies, and as we sat together she said "Are you a religious person?" I answered in the affirmative.
"Which religion?" she wondered.
"Oh. So, you must go to church every Sunday, yes?"
"No. I've not been to church in quite a long while."
"Hah!", she exclaimed, seeming both surprised and disapproving.
"Hindus must go to the ceremonies, right?"
"Oh yes, must."
"Well, you see, church is different than that. It's not a rule, something you are required to do. Christianity is a relationship with a person. With Christ. Oh, don't get me wrong. I used to enjoy church very much in America. But I didn't go because I had to, or because going there on Sunday made me a good Christian. I went because I enjoyed it, and enjoyed the people, and enjoyed singing in the choir."
I'm not so sure that the young woman understood this. Or rather, I'm pretty sure she did not. Hinduism is a social contract, a cultural obligation. To fail to attend the required ceremonies would be to fail to be a Hindu. And so she quite naturally concludes that the testimony of Christianity must be attendance at church.
At the same time, there is much to be said for the continual observances in Hinduism, providing as they do a continual binding of family and society, a continual observance of interconnectedness and mutual reliance, a responsibility toward one another.
When the observance of faith becomes a once-per-year whim, it becomes no observance after all, but merely a Sunday drive.