There’s much we don’t take cognizance of at Easter, the most eventful festival in the Christian calendar. We discountenance its deep, bottomless sacrifice content and message and concentrate on a fleeting euphoric aftermath of Good Friday and Resurrection Day. On Saturday after the death on the tree at Calvary, we wait for the grave to give up its Dead, knowing the Scriptures must, of necessity be fulfilled. At the break of dawn the next day when the tomb can no longer retain its Tenant, it releases Him, to declare the ordained victory of Life over death.
We experience the passion on Friday. We stay in our closet that day, sanctimoniously grieving for the ‘exit’ of the Lord. We miss Him. On Saturday, you remain in the valley mourning for the second successive day. Finally, on Sunday, there will be a shaking of the bones in the sepulcher to free the crucified Son of God. The Saviour has dealt a death blow to death itself.
But what has been man’s response over the ages? We dash back into the snare and stranglehold of the wily enemy of our soul. How? We go back into Satan’s subtle system of sins that moved the Man of Galilee to go to Calvary in the first place. How? We organize feasts where we go into unbridled revelry, an orgy of celebrations antithetical to all Easter stands for. Now, all this is opposed to the purpose of the Salvation the Creator worked out for fallen man.
The perception of Easter as a time to abandon ourselves in festivities and reenact the wild displays of the mythological Greek gods at parties on Mount Olympus led by Bacchus himself has blinded the Church and its leaders. It is drowning Church and society as we seek excitement and fulfillment outside the template of sacrifice. We are slumbering, cuddling in the nest of complacency. We are carried away by the noxious feeling that after Resurrection Day, we can go to sleep, waking up dead and expecting another crucifixion.
No! Easter is a call to self-abnegation. It’s a call to remember that without Good Friday, there would be no Easter Sunday; there would be no Resurrection Sunday. We must perpetually honour that day by a continuous abstemious life of sacrifice. If Christ’s selfless death brought life, we must not go back to habits and practices that lead to death.
But some Christians in Nigeria would okay post-Good Friday and Easter Sunday feel-good assemblies and congregations, along with the rolling out of riotous riches by our clerics flaunting a flamboyant lifestyle. They say these are evidence that you are a possessor of the riches brought the believer by the Master’s death. They must exhibit their wealth as proof Jesus went to the Cross to bring the ‘abundant life’. Those who are His children can’t but go about as the ‘King’s seed’, with royal gait and arrogance.
How else are we to identify them if they are not distinguished and set apart from the common people by the wealth displayed at their immoderate feasts? Those who organize these gatherings at Easter would always ask the poor to come for the crumbs on offer. The deprived of the society are quick to take the bait, seeing it as an opportunity to have a ‘feel’ of the season and indirectly eat of the ‘national cake’ through the friends of the government.
For indeed in Nigeria, as elsewhere in capitalist settings, all wealth comes from the state. The labour of the people create wealth. Millionaires and their cousin billionaires are a creation of their cronies in power. They don’t spring from nowhere.
It is the involvement of these state and church-assisted patricians in the celebration of such festivals as Easter and Christmas that inject them with the Dionysian characteristics of ancient Grecian orgies. Otherwise, where would a plebeian, scavenging to survive and feed his family, get the loose resources for loose seasonal parties?
Therefore, the social parties the nation witnessed across the country yesterday and on Easter Sunday along with all other secular and so-called religious ones constitute an abominable disavowal of what Jesus stood for. He was (and remains so) a friend of the poor, the deprived and the denied. But the wealthy class and their parties alienate this class of the citizens. You can’t claim to celebrate Jesus if you won’t be friends with His friends, the poor of the community.
Now, it is disturbing that a section of the Church itself is an accessory to the crime, as it were. The Church is pitching its camp with the rich as its leadership continuously absorbs the lifestyle of the aristocratic class. The poor can’t satisfy the gargantuan demands of the ecclesiastical leaders. Only the rich can. And it does flagrantly. That draws the degenerate wing of the church and the corrupted rich into a sort of irreversible covenant. Christ, the Founder and Owner of the Church, frowns at this unholy union, which disinherits the poor from what He left them.
A feeble, feckless and fruitless clergy is what passes for most of the leadership of the Church in Nigeria at the moment. Wielding an authority long disowned and disempowered by Heaven, they rest on lucre for recognition instead of on righteousness for the love of God.
Discipline, sacrificial service in evangelism and work for their God without fleecing the vulnerable in the society, had disappeared from their language. These were fruits Jesus Himself bore. And He says those who are His would do the same.
Those who don’t, but are steeped in self-seeking, seedless and sybaritic conduct, are not His! They belong elsewhere.
Ojewale writes from Lagos