Easter…without Bunnies or Bonnets or Baskets

If we were to allow supermarkets and department stores and shopping malls to define “Easter,” we might well be jolted with a garish parade of the following:

  • Plush, cuddly bunnies
  • Stylish, pastel-colored bonnets
  • Small and medium and large baskets lined with artificial grass and crammed with everything from crayons

Sometimes we need a story to jolt us back to the Easter Story…without bunnies or bonnets or baskets.

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On September 27, 1941, in a small town in Lithuania, German SS forces took some three thousand Jews from their homes and corralled them to the local cemetery. There the Jews were stripped and then shot on the

Samuel, a sixteen-year old boy, fell into the pit unharmed–a split second before bullets killed those beside him and around him. When darkness fell, Samuel maneuvered his way from under the many corpses and climbed out of the massive grave.

Clothed only in blood stains, the frantic teenage boy ran and knocked on the door of the closest farmhouse.

The farmer opened the door. Once he saw Samuel, the farmer shouted, “Go back to the grave, Jew, where

The farmer then slammed the door in Samuel’s face.

At the next four houses, Samuel knocked on each of the front doors…only to receive the same response as Samuel recognized that he–an ostracized Jew–would gain no admittance into a non-Jewish house…unless he evoked a supreme

So, Samuel summoned all the strength he could muster from his frail frame. He made his way to the home of an old widow whom he knew to be Christian. Her humble cottage stood near the edge of the forest.

Samuel braced himself in front of the cottage door and cried out,

“I am the Lord, Jesus Christ, who has come down from the cross!”

Upon hearing his desperate voice, the widow made the Sign of the Cross over herself. She opened the door and brought Samuel inside. The woman bathed him and wrapped him in bed linens. She fed him and arranged her extra bed for him to rest in.

Three days later, Samuel thanked the woman profusely for her risk-taking hospitality. Then, dressed in clothes that the widow had collected from neighbors, he slipped out of her cottage and into the forest. There he joined the underground forces.

Around the year 33 A.D., there lived a man–a holy man–who was regarded alternately as a hero and a rebel, as a miracle-worker and a trouble-make, as a teacher and a heretic.

This man–this holy man–was betrayed by a friend, arrested by Roman officials and crucified at the insistence of the people whom he had loved.

This man–this holy man–died on a wooden cross to which he was nailed.

This man–this holy man–was limp and broken and bloodied.

This man–this holy man–was removed from the cross, bathed with embalming ointments, wrapped with burial linens and laid to rest in a grave.

However…one night, one day and one night later, this man–this holy man–climbed out of the grave… without a bunny or a bonnet or a basket in sight.

And with that holy man rose this truth: Love is stronger than death.

That is how the first Easter dawned…without bunnies or bonnets or baskets.

That man–that holy man–is known as Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Prince of Peace.

Relive Easter…without bunnies or bonnets or baskets…on:

Thursday, April 2, at 7 p.m., in Miller Chapel for our Maundy Thursday service;

Friday, April 3, at 12 noon, beginning at St. Michael’s Catholic Church for the community-wide

Good Friday service and Way of the Cross, concluding at Trinity Episcopal Church.

Then, on Sunday, April 5, at 10 a.m., in the sanctuary of The United Church of Warsaw, we will celebrate Easter. In all likelihood, bunnies and bonnets and baskets will be in sight.

But remember this truth: Love is stronger than death.

And remember the very first Easter…without bunnies or bonnets or baskets.

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Beside you in the journey of faith,

Rev. Barbara