It will probably be obvious once you begin reading that I am not Theresa if for no other reason than I refer to being a grandparent. I am Mary VandenBerg, a professor of systematic theology at Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I was asked to fill in for Theresa for a few weeks so for a little while, I will be the face behind Theresa’s name. I have a husband, three grown children, and one new grandchild. I love God, the church, my family, and my students at Calvin, to name a just a few things. I work on topics like atonement, sanctification, aging, and death, which my husband thinks is depressing but I find life-giving. Thanks for reading!
Easter Sunday is perhaps the most important day of the Christian year. While Easter could not happen apart from the incarnation, the work of Christ is not complete apart from Easter. As Paul wrote, “If Christ is not risen our faith is in vain.” No Easter, no church.
Personally, Easter is also my favorite day of the Christian year. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, and Lent – the other “big” seasons and days – are important of course. But these seasons tend to lead me to more contemplative practices and quiet reflection. In addition, Christmas has become so commercialized, that I find is difficult to focus on Christ with all the parties, presents, and other preparations of that season.
By contrast, Easter is pure joy. Our family has never allowed this most joyful of days to become infected with bunnies, baskets, and the like. The focus has always been Christ. That not only means less work for me, but also the blessing of triumphant celebration for the miracle of the resurrection. At Easter, the road of suffering has given way to jubilant victory over death. All the ways that sin has marred this world, as John Calvin says, have been defeated. The new creation has begun.
This Easter was different, in a good way. It was more joyful, more rich than any I have celebrated before. This year I saw Easter through the eyes of age. You see on January 5 my husband and I became grandparents. And this past Sunday, Easter Sunday, our first grandchild was baptized. This baptism also happened to be the birthday of our son, his father.
As our son and daughter-in-law presented their son for baptism the pastor asked them for his name. They stated his name and the pastor asked them a series of questions. “On behalf of the whole Church, do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin? Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you
to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves? Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations,
and races?” Each time they answered, as expected, “We do.”
And then the final question, “Will you nurture this child in Christ’s holy Church, that by your teaching and example he may be guided to accept God’s grace for himself, to profess his faith openly, and to lead a Christian life?” Once again, “We do.”
Suddenly it occurred to me, in a way that it had not before, that the promises of God made to our son at his baptism twenty-nine years ago were being affirmed in a rich new way before my very eyes. Our son had accepted God’s promises some years earlier through his profession of faith. But now another layer was being added. The covenant promises were being extended to the next generation. On this Easter Sunday we were witnessing the promise of new life in Christ being offered to our son’s child. This was resurrection multiplied.
I felt just a little like Simeon. I had witnessed God’s salvation. I have lived to see my children’s children. But more than that, I was witnessing God’s ongoing covenant faithfulness to his people, from generation, to generation…..