The Easter Hunt

“Did you ever do any of those big Easter egg hunts when you were little,” Amy asked me this week.

I got to thinking about this, and stumbled over an answer. I honestly don’t remember any, so either I didn’t do any or they were fairly forgettable affairs. The only Easter egg hunts I do remember were at the somewhat sprawling house and yard at my dad’s parents. There were only about five grandkids, so it wasn’t a big affair, though I guess it gave a little bit of the sense of that primary task of the event: the hunt. Plastic eggs, chocolates, candy, assorted other items and goodies are put in hard to find spots so that everyone is then sent off on their own quests to gather the most treasure.

“I didn’t like them,” Amy added. “My memories are of kids screaming, and fighting, and pushing.”

Everyone wants to gather the most, gather the best, both for their own sake and for the sake of showing everyone else. “Look what I got!” each one says, while at the same time triumphing over those who got less and feeling a fair bit jealous of those who have more. For the competitive ones, this is either a shining or a devastating moment. If there’s no built in balance, younger kids get muscled out or are simply too slow to gather up what is hidden.

To be sure, the adults are aware of this sort of imbalance. Oftentimes, nowadays, Easter egg hunts will be broken up into different ages. The younger the hunters, the much more readily apparent are the prizes. The adults will walk alongside and help. Kids sometimes know to take advantage of this help, playing the pose of the helpless needing guidance, simply because it is much easier for an adult to tell them rather than looking. But that doesn’t last for too many years. Because the hunt is the thing. Capturing the prize, getting the most chocolate, reveling in one’s found cache and feeling triumphant each time we find something that someone else hasn’t found.

With this in mind we encounter Easter. And in my mind Easter the religious holiday, indeed the whole of our spiritual life, is often very much the same sort of task as the Easter egg hunt.

We look for the hidden treasures. We scramble to know the most, find the most, sharing with others what we found but also competing with others about what they found. We sometimes like to triumph over, even if silently, those who know less, while we’re intimidated by, and maybe even jealous of, those who know more. We go to this service and to that service, we do this task and do that task. We put on our best suit or nicest dress, all as part of our going out and doing the tasks we think should be done. We get easily disappointed when we can’t find what we’re looking for, when we go out looking and our basket remains mostly empty. We see others gathering and finding, becoming filled. But we don’t. We get discouraged and may even quit looking. Those who are the most competitive are often the ones who find the most, get the most.

We come to Easter, so often, as hunters looking for our spiritual egg, this hidden egg that is the life and hope and trust of Christ in our life that might, somehow, bring peace to our frantic life. The kids scream and fight and push, all to find the best egg, the most eggs, so they can tell everyone what they found.

This can affect how we live. Because even though we might argue that we can’t find salvation through works, we really do have this inner sense that because the hunt is the thing, if we look harder, longer, farther, with more energy we’ll be able to find more salvation — more of those benefits of salvation that we think is part of the spiritual life.

So we spend our lives looking for the eggs. We ask people who we think are more advanced than us. We compete and we muscle other out, judging and being jealous in turn. The spiritual life becomes this constant frenzy of gathering more and more so that we can fill our basket and say, “Look what I found!”

I was thinking about this earlier this morning, and I realized something. We’re not the hunters. We’re the eggs.

Jesus finds us. Wherever we’re hidden, Jesus comes to us. We’re lost, he gathers us into his arms. That’s the story of the resurrection.
women at the tomb
Indeed, it might even be argued that the story of the cross is the result of what happens when we as people insist on hunting down Jesus. That’s seen most clearly in Gethsemene, but it’s also seen with Peter and the other disciples, who kept insisting they found a Messiah that matched their own expectations. They were searching for a Messiah, and they couldn’t ever really capture Jesus, and Jesus certainly wouldn’t let himself be gathered up in anyone’s basket. A whole group of people were so sure of what they were looking for that they missed the Messiah who was among them. They got caught up in the frenzy and they thought they were the ones to determine the prizes and the content of the hunt.

So Jesus died. And then he wasn’t dead. He rose again. This is where the story gets really interested because Jesus, the resurrected Christ, can’t be found. He finds.

The women go to the tomb. He’s not there. Keep looking, he’s not here, the young man says. He shows up in the garden to Mary Magdelene (a woman!). Peter and John go running back to the tomb to find the risen Lord. He’s not there. They do a lot of running back and forth, but they don’t find. Jesus finds them. Peter and John Running

That’s the message of the resurrection. All our work, all our worry, all our frenzied competition and anxious efforts are missing the point. “You are looking for Jesus. He isn’t here. Go tell the others.” On their way to tell the others, Jesus finds them. “Greetings!,” he says.

He shows up with the two fellows walking out of Jerusalem, chatting with them, eating with them. Just when they realize who he is (we found him!), he’s gone. He’s not found. He finds. They go to tell the others, and then Jesus finds them again with the others. on the road

The disciples go fishing. They catch nothing. They spend all night hunting. Nothing. They try all the techniques. Not a single fish. A guy on the beach sees them and tells them how to find the fish. Jesus found them, found the fish. Jesus is not found. He finds. He is the hunter. We are the eggs, the fish, the sheep who are hidden and lost.

This carries into the book of Acts. Jesus ascends into heaven. The disciples pray. Wait, Jesus tells them. Finally, finally, they listen. What they couldn’t do in Gethsemene they can do in the upper room, waiting, praying, and the Spirit finds them. The Spirit wasn’t evoked. The Spirit wasn’t hunted down. The Spirit finds.

All through Acts this is true. The Spirit shows up in all kinds of places, finding all kinds of people. The Spirit isn’t something we hunt for, spending our time in anxious techniques to find the Spirit in the right action or the right words or the right service or building. The Spirit isn’t found in the tombs. The Spirit isn’t found. The Spirit finds.
That’s the message of the resurrection. Pentecost
Jesus is not the object who is found in the tomb, but the risen Son who finds us wherever we are. He seeks us, the Spirit hunts us down, wherever we try to hide, whatever we think we have done, however well we might be hidden. There is no screaming, no pushing, no fighting. There is no competition because what is there to compete about? We can’t find what we are looking for because we look in the wrong place. We look in the tomb and the tomb is empty. We cannot find, because we are not the hunters.

The Son is out and about, and he is finding us.

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