Getting all “Eastered up” used to mean that every lady had to have the perfect hat and real men could wear pink.
The Easter Parade still takes place on Easter Sunday on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Starting as a spontaneous event in the 1870s, the parade grew to such popularity that in 1947 over a million people processed up the avenue.
While the stroll might not have all the panache it had when Fred Astaire and Judy Garland made the avenue their runway in the Irving Berlin film musical Easter Parade, it annually draws a crowd and the strollers still make their bold fashion statements – the more colorful the better.
Do they realize they are actually participating in a ritual that dates back to the Roman Emperor Constantine who – in the fourth century – instructed the empire’s citizenry to wear their finest and parade in honor of Jesus’ resurrection?
We read in the Gospel of Luke of another Easter parade. The women who had attended to Jesus’ burial go to the tomb on a mission of mercy. They know they cannot change the dark shadow cast by Good Friday, but they go there, carrying with them spices to preserve his body. Their procession that first Easter morning was less than festive. In their state of mourning, the women’s clothing blended with the shadows cast amongst the tombs. There were no spectators for this sad little parade, no gawkers. The women make their way determined, yet weighed down with grief.
And what do they find?
A stone-cold sepulcher greeted them with the shock of emptiness. Robbed of the beloved’s body, it must have echoed their cries. Turning away from its emptiness, only to be greeted by two men in “gleaming bright clothing,” the mourners, we are told, “didn’t know what to make of this.”
If their garb wasn’t startling enough, the men dared to ask the real question of the day: “Why seek you the living among the dead?” Obviously, these two would have flunked out as grief counselors, but their question does give pause to Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women, as it should us.
That dark day that was Calvary had so overwhelmed them they had forgotten what Jesus had said when he said, “I must be handed over to sinners, be crucified and on the third day rise again.” Hearing him say “I must be crucified” would have been all they heard him say. Stunned as they are, we are told “they remembered his words.” While neither they nor anyone else witnessed Jesus being snatched from death, what they did see changed their lives forever – a living Lord. They looked away from a grave, no longer seeking the living among the dead, and faced a day like no other. A new day in a new world. And what a different parade it was as they returned from the tomb!
All Eastered up, they make their way, radiant with good news. Their faces had to tell the story as they reached the disciples. But they encountered resistance, for doubting disciples did all they could to rain on the Easter parade. And they still do. Luke tells us they think the women’s words “nonsense.” Yes, the women might have asked of themselves, “Why seek we the living among the dead?” The disciples desperately needed to get all Eastered up. And so do we.
Even as we have been reminded this Holy Week, suffering and the unfathomable deaths of innocents are never far from us these days. All the more we need to get all Eastered up and join the throng to announce that death is the real loser, as are those who seek to thrive by inflicting it. So get out your feathers, your beads, your buckles and bows. Get all Eastered up, and if someone tries to run you out of town for doing so, get out in front and make it a parade.
THE REV. BERNARD MASON IS THE PASTOR OF MANN AND MIZE MEMORIAL UNITED METHODIST CHURCHES, AND CHAPLAIN AT HEARTLAND HOSPICE.