I was ten years old, and my father pastored a small church on the East end of Palm Bay Road. Easter was approaching and to promote a record attendance my dad offered a free rabbit to everyone that brought a visitor. It seems that someone associated with the church had offered us a bundle of baby rabbits.
The promotion worked, and we had a record attendance while handing out more than fifty rabbits to those “lucky” families that had brought visitors. The rabbit I carried home was immediately named Peter, and my father built a sturdy cage for him to live in.
Peter, the rabbit, was a good pet. We even let him out during the day, and he would hop around the yard and always stay close to his food where we would put him in his cage at night. One day, I noticed Peter was pulling all of his hair out, and that worried me. He became very ill, and it looked like he might die. Before long, Peter shocked us all and gave birth to several little bunnies.
Peter, whose name was changed to Petress, proved to all of us that it is not easy to determine the gender of a rabbit, but as the old saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding”, and when the reproduction started we had to rethink our premise. Before we knew it, we were building more cages and unable to control the rabbit population.
Ardent Christians often feel that our sacred Biblical stories and holidays are replaced with trivial secular symbols. Santa Clause and Rudolf, the red-nose reindeer rather than baby Jesus and a long donkey ride to Bethlehem. Peter Cottontail and Easter baskets rather than a resurrected savior and an empty tomb. Winter Break and Spring Break rather than Christmas and Easter vacation.
Peter Rabbit may be a living example of what Easter is all about rather than a secular substitute for the aisles of Walmart. Not just any Peter cotton tail story or rhyme but the Peter Rabbit that I knew as a boy. One that sacrificed her fur to make life more comfortable for those that would come after her. One that surprised us by coming back to life from a place of weakness only to produce more life.
The story of the resurrected Savior is one of sacrifice, humility, brokenness, death and new life. It is more than anything a message of hope and renewal. The celebration of a resurrected Christ is new life springing forth from unlikely circumstances.
The Old Testament tells us about Jacob whose name changed to Israel after an encounter with a supernatural being. The New Testament tells us about Saul whose name changed to Paul after an encounter with God. Not only does our nature change with greater potential when we meet Christ but so does our Identity.
Easter illustrates the changing character of all of us at the point that we sacrifice our life and give our heart to God. We move from turmoil to triumph, and new life demonstrates all of this. We are born again, and that transformation is a celebration that started at Calvary.
This year at the First Pentecostal Church, we celebrate this season with a dramatic portrayal of the risen Christ. “Messiah” 2016 is a 2-hour music drama of live animals, special effects and a cast of more than 150 people. It will keep you riveted as you journey with Christ through the three years that preceded his death and the days that followed.
“Messiah” 2016 will be presented four times this year. March 18th (Friday), March 20th (Sunday), March 25th, (Friday) and March 27th (Sunday) at 7:00 pm. This year it is presented free of charge by going to www.messiahdrama.com for your electronic ticket or calling First Pentecostal Church at 321-723-2030. Doors will open at 6:00 pm and standby tickets will be given at 6:30 pm each night.
Petress was just a rabbit that I got one Easter, but she taught me to look at life through the lens of possibility rather than through the paradigm of preconceptions. Easter is more than eggs and baskets; it is life. New life. Resurrected life. Impossible life.