Carnett: Embrace the meaning of Easter


It's not a pastel-hued springtime frolic.  It's a sonic boom that reverberates up and down the corridors of human existence.

Put succinctly, Easter commemorates Christ's resurrection and his triumph over the grave.

"O death, where is your victory?" roars the Apostle Paul. "O death, where is your sting?"

Resurrection is Christianity's central tenet, its raison d'etre. Without it, all else is window dressing.  Absent the resurrection, Christianity is a social club.  

"And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins," Paul writes.

Without the resurrection, we mortals are consigned to pointlessness and despair.

Luke, in his Gospel, tells of the women bringing spices to the tomb early Easter morning to prepare Christ's torn and lifeless body for burial.  But the tomb is empty, and two men in shining array greet them.  

"Why do you look for the living among the dead?" they ask. "He has risen!"

Is Easter important?

C.S. Lewis says: "Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance and, if true, is of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important."  

Easter is no Mister In-Between.  If Christ rose from the dead, then we've been placed on notice. This is serious.

My first Easter morning experience — beyond chocolate bunnies and colored eggs — was probably in 1950 at the tiny Community Methodist Church on Agate Avenue near the Balboa Island Ferry. I was 5.

I lived with my brother and parents in a small Balboa Island apartment behind my grandparent's home on Marine Avenue.  On Sunday mornings, we'd stroll the beautiful half-mile route from our house, down the South Bay Front sidewalk, to Agate.

We moved to our new home in Costa Mesa in 1952 and began attending Newport Harbor Lutheran Church on Cliff Drive overlooking Newport Bay. The church building featured a distinctive tower with a lighted cross that could be seen by mariners many miles at sea.

I loved Easters at the Lutheran church. Frequently, during the 1950s, I served as an acolyte — or altar boy — for services. For me, Easter was always the World Series of the church calendar. The sanctuary was packed with worshipers.

Extra chairs would be set up in the aisles, along the sidewalls and in the back.

The church tower, located just off the nave near the pulpit, included a first-floor vestibule that opened into the nave. Normally, that vestibule would be screened off during services, but on Easter it'd be open to accommodate 75 to 80 folding chairs. I thought it resembled the right field bleachers at Yankee Stadium.

But I always suffered a letdown when I lighted the candles the first Sunday after Easter. For one thing, it usually rained, and the church seemed empty. I'd been certain the previous week that all our Easter guests would come back. They didn't.

In the 1980s and '90s my wife, Hedy, and I and our daughters often rose early to attend Calvary Chapel's Easter sunrise service with 10,000 other folks at Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa. We lugged a Thermos of hot coffee to fight off the spring "dews and damps." We loved the enthusiasm, the music and the message.

One Easter, while we were on the road, Hedy and I attended a worship service at a Baptist church near Monticello, Va.  I donned slacks, a sweater and deck shoes, and we braved a soft rain and walked several blocks from our hotel to the church.

We entered the sanctuary and saw immediately that everyone was dressed to the nines: men in suits, ties and highly polished shoes; women in colorful dresses, heels and extravagant hats. This wasn't California casual!  We felt under-dressed. We were embarrassed and tried to slip out discreetly.

However, when it came to the moment in the service when worshipers greet those around them, dozens came and embraced us.  We felt the love of Christ — far, far from home.

Here's hoping you encounter the risen savior this Sunday. Happy Easter!

JIM CARNETT, who lives in Costa Mesa, worked for Orange Coast College for 37 years.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World