Happy Easter, citizens of the Republic of Progarchy! I typically share Marillion’s song, “Easter” on this day every year. I do that again this year, but I want to point out that this song feels particularly relevant today. A month and a half ago, Russia invaded Ukraine after 8 years of arming rebels on Ukraine’s eastern border. In the weeks since we’ve all seen many of the horrors from this pointless war on social media or TV. Schools, hospitals, train stations filled with fleeing refugees indiscriminately struck by missiles. Streets filled with dead civilians. It’s truly horrific, and I shudder to think what will come of this mess. As is usual in war, the antagonists suffer no physical harm as they direct their attack from halls of luxury while people who already have very little lose everything – even their lives.
Thirty years ago, something similar was all too common on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Fighting and violence had been ongoing for numerous decades, and even today tensions remain strong, with violent protests breaking out a year ago in Northern Ireland related to Brexit. But like in any war, the most people living on either side simply wanted peace. They likely didn’t share the zealous spirit of the terrorist setting off bombs, yet they have to live with the consequences of the terrorist’s actions.
Over a century ago on Easter 1916, the Irish nationalist groups suffered a stinging defeat by the British. William Butler Years’ poem, Easter, 1916, commemorates this event, and the poem directly influenced Steve Hogarth in writing “Easter” in 1989. The song combines elements of Irish folk music with Marillion’s classic neoprog sound. The opening verse paints a picture of peaceful rural Ireland, with green hills nestled in misty valleys. But the hedgerows and trees hide a bloody secret:
A tattered necklace of hedge end trees
On the southern side of the hill
Betrays where the border runs between
Where Mary Dunoon’s boy fell
The second verse looks at it from the perspective of someone (probably a soldier) being shipped from Liverpool to Northern Ireland. Perhaps his fate will be the same as Mary Dunoon’s boy. Those verses merely set the stage. The real meat of the song is the call to peace and forgiveness.
And Easter here again, a time for the blind to see
Easter, surely now can all of your hearts be free
What will you do?
Make a stone of your heart?
Will you set things right?
When you tear them apart?
Will you sleep at night?
With the plough and the stars alight?
What will you do?
With the wire and the gun?
That’ll set things right
When it’s said and done?
Will you sleep at night?
Is there so much love to hide?
Will the shooting and explosions really solve our problems? They didn’t for Ireland and Great Britain. They finally realized that on Good Friday and Easter 1998 with the signing of a peace agreement. Now we find ourselves with a new bloody conflict many orders of magnitude worse than the Ireland-Britain conflict Marillion sang of with “Easter.” The questions asked in this song need to be asked of the Russians and Ukrainians. Both sides have corrupt governments, but one side (Russia) is solely responsible for the hell they have unleashed on millions of innocent civilians. Things aren’t set right when torn apart. This Easter (which the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates next Sunday) is the perfect time for them to reflect on this and if what they’re doing is really worth more people dying.
Easter is indeed a time for the blind to see, a time for hearts to be set free, a time for hearts of stone to be softened. But why is that? Much is made in western culture about Christmas, the holiday which celebrates the birth of Jesus, but Easter is a far more important holiday. On Good Friday, Christians remember Jesus’ death on the cross. We call it Good because without His death, we could never be reconciled to God. You see, our sin (the things we do and think that are morally wrong) creates a giant chasm between us and God. God is holy and perfect, and we can’t enter into His presence in our sinful state. God knows this, and in His unsurpassed mercy, He looked on us with favor and sent His son, Jesus, into the world to become one of us. Both fully God and fully man, He is the only person who ever lived a sinless life. After a three-year ministry, Jesus was crucified by a Roman governor in an effort to placate an angry mob stirred on by religious leaders threatened by the message of salvation Jesus taught. But unbeknownst to that governor and those religious leaders, Jesus’ death served a much higher purpose. In His death, Jesus bore our sin so that we don’t have to.
After Jesus died, He was taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb, which was sealed with a stone and guarded by Roman soldiers. There His body lay until that glorious Sunday morning (Easter) when death discovered it could not contain the creator of the universe. Jesus rose from the dead, defeating sin and death forever! On Easter we celebrate Jesus breaking death so we might live. In response to this lavish gift, Christians are supposed to live lives of service and love to others. We are to show compassion to the poor, mercy to the sick, and love to the unloved. We are to be the hands of Jesus to a suffering world.
Our world is desperately broken. We long for a day without war. A day when little children going to school don’t have to be worried about a rocket blasting into their building because of the whims of a crazed dictator 500 miles away. We dream of a day when people won’t feel the need to numb the pain of living with drugs just to get through another day. We wish for the pain of ongoing depression to be taken away. We dream of futures better than the present. We dream of… so much.
The world will remain broken until Jesus returns, but until that happens, we have the chance to show love. We can find fulfillment in a personal relationship with God, and through that we can spread joy, hope, and love to others. All it requires is making Jesus your lord – repenting of your sin, repenting of your pride, relinquishing control of your life to Him and allowing Him to use you to build His kingdom. Only then can true meaning and purpose in life be found. It isn’t easy. In fact being a Christian is really hard sometimes, but it’s worth it. Unity with God the Father and unity with fellow believers is a precious gift worth far more than any earthly riches. Even if our world literally blows up around us due to circumstances over which we have no control, we might still have internal peace knowing that God loves us and cares for us.
You might think, “I don’t read this site to be preached at,” and that’s fair. But I pay the WordPress rent for the site, so I’ll write what I want ;p And more than that, I care about you, dear reader. Your life matters. Your soul matters more than you can possibly comprehend. The decisions we make in this life really do impact where we spend eternity. We can spend it in eternal bliss unified with God, or we can spend it in eternal torment separated from Him. God ultimately gives us what we want. If we want nothing to do with Him now, then He will give us that after we die. But just like life without God is dark and depressing – full of war, famine, hatred, murder, rape, lust, bitterness, anger, etc. – eternal death will be far darker. The sin in this world is merely a shadow of the death to come. The goodness in this world reflects the goodness of God, and it too is merely a shadow of the joy and peace to be found in Heaven.
Don’t let today pass without giving this some serious thought. We don’t have forever. Time flies by in the blink of an eye, and none of us are promised another day. But through faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross and resurrection from the dead, we can have absolute confidence on which side of the chasm we will spend eternity. Even when our world gets rocked by war, sickness, famine, drought, and storm, we can have confidence knowing we are deeply loved by a God who laid down His life for us.
Happy Easter, Progarchy.
Sing “Never again.”