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Easter Reveals 'Paradoxes' of the Christian Faith

by on April 05, 2015 6:00 AM

For Reverend Monica Dawkins-Smith of the Faith United Church of Christ, Easter reveals the paradoxes of the Christian faith.

When she thinks about the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, she sees the pain her savior was forced to endure. She sees the hatred of the Romans who bloodied him. She sees the sorrow of the disciples who watched him die.

But, more than all of those things, she sees the promise of grace and redemption when she thinks of Jesus’ resurrection three days after his death.

“When we talk about Eater, we’re saying new life comes from death. We’re saying there is love that comes from hate,” Dawkins-Smith says. “We’re also saying that good can come from evil, that hope blooms from despair, that there’s power in vulnerability.”

Joel Blunk, an associate pastor with the State College Presbyterian Church, says Easter is the most spiritually significant holiday of the Christian faith. While he admits Christmas may get more attention culturally, he says the story of Jesus’ resurrection (not his birth) is the central tenant of Christianity.

Blunk says the story of Jesus rising from the tomb reminds all Christians that death is not the end, that death is weak and wilting in the face of God’s eternal love. But at the same time, Easter also serves as a reminder of how pain can teach us to love each other better, if we open our minds to its lessons.

“Suffering is a part of the human experience, just as it was a part of Jesus’ experience,” Blunk says. “There is no resurrection without suffering and, ultimately, death.”

That ties back into the paradoxes that Dawkins-Smith sees all around her: death, birth, life, and suffering that leads to joy.

She says these lessons are not solely applicable for Christians. Anyone with an open heart can finds a way to turn the struggles in their life into a great source of strength; anyone can find something meaningful in the sacrifice Jesus was willing to make – regardless of whether they believe he was the son of God or not.

Reverend Mark Hayes’ congregation at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County is an example of this. Hayes explains that the Unitarian Universalist church is an offshoot of Christianity that began several decades ago, and now welcomes everyone from atheists to Buddhists to Christians and more. 

“Probably very few Unitarian Universalists believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Hayes says. “If we talk about the resurrection, it’s in terms of maintaining hope in the presence of darkness. Even in the deepest depths of despair, there is always hope and the faith that we will return to life and joy.”

Hayes says this ties well into the changing of seasons. As winter gives way to spring, Hayes says he can see the story of Easter in something as simple as flower gently poking through the earth for the first time this year.

Dawinks-Smith agrees, and says an old saying comes to her mind when she thinks about Jesus returning to life after his three days in the dark.

“Hope springs eternal,” she says. 


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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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