New Life at Easter

   Easter is a harbinger of new life. Maybe that’s why some of our celebrations include baby chicks and bunnies. When I was a child, my mother would plant oat seeds in an indoor container about a month before Easter in order to have new oats growing on that weekend. She would also follow the popular custom of boiling eggs for us to paint. All of these symbolize new life.

   We celebrate Easter in spring when the earth is coming back to life after the long, cold winter. I remember years where it was warm enough on the Easter weekend for my sisters to wear socks with their spring dresses, leaving the leotards in the drawer. It’s the time of year when we see birds building nests to hatch new life; flowers pushing up through last year’s dead foliage, preparing to present a wonderful floral display; and grass starting to grow on the south side of buildings where the sun has begun to warm the soil.

   Easter itself is a celebration of new life and new beginnings. The Christian community rejoices in the resurrection of Jesus and the resulting availability of new life for all who believe. That first Easter also marked a significant change in the worship practices of believers. Up to that time, the sacrifice of a living animal was required for one’s sins to be forgiven. Considering the large number of animals being brought to the priests for this ceremony, one can only imagine the sights, sounds and smells that prevailed in the temples of the day. Surely those buildings bear little resemblance to the churches in which we worship today. Jesus’ personal sacrifice fulfilled the forgiveness requirements once and for all.

   It was only after that first Easter that the opportunity for “new life” was extended beyond the Jewish people. Until that time, Jesus was viewed as the Messiah for the “Children of Israel” and not necessarily for the world. Through a series of vivid dreams, God led the Apostle Peter to understand that Jesus’ death and resurrection was on behalf of all people and all nations.

   Five hundred years ago Martin Luther initiated what is today known as the Reformation. One of the offshoots of the Reformation was the Anabaptist movement, which ultimately gave rise to the Mennonite church. This period of significant change resulted in new churches and new life, spiritually and practically.

   The Mennonite people have fled persecution and sought to retain lifestyle and values over most of the last five hundred years. In pursuit of the latter, each migration - from the Netherlands to Prussia to Russia to Canada to South and Central America - brought new life, along with significant change, to many Mennonite people.

   Those who chose not to migrate beyond North America also experienced changes and new life as they adapted to their local environments, learning to use the English language, establishing careers that required a significant education, involving themselves in government, and learning to sing with instrumental accompaniment in their churches.

   As we celebrate Easter this spring, let’s be reminded that Jesus’ resurrection and new life followed death. Similarly, the “new life” that Mennonites have experienced at various times in their history has often come at considerable cost. Although we should realistically expect some struggle with any major change in our lives, we can always anticipate and rejoice in new life.

Calendar of Events

April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation

May 1: 9:00 AM – Outdoor village opens for the season

May 1: 11:00 AM – Livery Barn Restaurant opens for the season

May 6: 7:30 PM - Local History Lectures – Family, Food and Spirituality

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About the Author

Barry is the Executive Director of the Mennonite Heritage Village. While he does not consider himself to be a historian, he places a high value on the preservation and interpretation of the Mennonite and pioneer stories that help people of all ages understand and appreciate their heritage. Learn more about the MHV.

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