by Chad Pierce
From Orange City to Oostburg and Lynden to Pella, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
It’s tulip time. I have spent most of my life in two cities founded by Dutch immigrants. And from the quaint community festival in Pella, Iowa to the commercialized gridlock of Holland, Michigan, I admit I enjoy a good tulip festival. The sight of Dutch costumes and flowers, the smells of corndogs and elephant ears, and the sounds of wooden shoes and Dutch dancing collide into a sensory overloaded yet charming experience.
Now being back in Holland as an adult, has allowed me to relive both the Tulip Time and the city of my childhood. While there are many similarities, Tulip Time has changed. The prices have gone up–$6 for an elephant ear! The number young people willing to Dutch dance has dwindled. The musical performers have changed. And there are even rumors of a beer tent.
The city has changed too. And perhaps that change is most felt during the first week of May. For just down the road, while some gather to celebrate their Dutch heritage, many others gather for Cinco de Mayo, commemorating Mexico’s unlikely victory over France on May 5, 1862.
Holland has a large Mexican and even larger Hispanic population, and that population is growing. Both festivals gather large crowds, celebrate a heritage, and bring families and communities together. As far as I know there have been no recent confrontations between the two (what is said behind closed doors might be another matter). And yet, these festivals remind me that, in a large part, I live in what remains a racially divided community.
During this season of resurrection, I am struck by how Ephesians uses that word. For its writer, the resurrection of the dead is not so much something that is to be looked forward to as much as it is something that has already happened in a believer. Followers of Jesus, in some ways, have already passed through death to new life in Christ. Particularly, Ephesians 2:1-10 teaches us that we were dead to to our sins but made alive in Christ. As followers of Jesus we have been saved by grace through faith. And we have been saved in order to do good works.
Immediately following this plan of salvation in which Christians are saved in order to do good works, Ephesians 2:11-22 calls for a new and all encompassing unity for the body of believers including Jews and Gentiles. The first good work that resurrected Christians are called to is a ministry of reconciliation. God’s kingdom is based upon and calls us to a ministry of reconciliation.
The early church struggled incorporating the new Gentiles into the Jewish movement. We read in Acts that racist tendencies in the church demonstrated the need for the office of deacon (Acts 6:1-6). Galatians reveals the theological tension of God’s kingdom expanding beyond the righteous community’s safe boundaries. And yet, Ephesians calls its readers to extend the same theology of reconciliation to strangers, to the other, as Christ did to us. Christ did break down the barrier wall in the temple because all people are God’s people.
It appears that we have rebuilt many of those walls. To be fair, there are plenty of people on both sides with sledgehammers trying to break them down again. In Holland, we see many wonderful bridge building movements. And yet in the first week of May I am reminded again that more demolition is still needed.
In Isaiah 11:6, the prophet dreams of a day when,
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
That sounds great. Right now though, I would be willing to settle for a city where people could enjoy a good stroopwafel and tamale together. This, of course, will take a bit of effort. Reconciliation always comes at a great price, but the reward is worth it. Reconciliation is what resurrected people are called to do. But are we willing to humble ourselves, as Christ humbled himself, to be agents of that reconciliation?
I love my city. But I think I could love it more if I knew it, all of it, a little better. And to be honest, that Cinco de Mayo carnival looks pretty fun.
Chad Pierce is pastor of Faith Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan.