The traditional reminders of the details of the Gospel’s Easter portraits are so familiar that finding creative ways to engage that experience can be a challenge.

Sometimes an encounter, or a combination of encounters, can bring fresh insight into a familiar framework, and such was the case for me recently.

The first was a series of Lenten reflections via Zoom with Grace Episcopal Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

A group of thoughtful pilgrims spent a few weeks considering the Gospel’s “journey to the cross” as a paradigm for the faith pilgrimage itself, even in our personal experience.

The second was the Lectionary text for Palm Sunday that featured Paul’s early Christology in chapter two of his Philippians letter.

In that passage, Christ, in the “form” of God, did not consider that privilege of equality as something to be used for his own advantage, but “emptied himself,” taking the “form” of a servant, being found in human “form,” thereby giving early expression to what would later become a doctrine of incarnation.

This pair of encounters has focused some new light on the question of what a covenant faith – such as we affirm in our embrace of the revelation that comes in and through our passion week and Easter experience – offers us in our understanding of God and of religious experience in general.

A natural or “default” understanding that seems prevalent in human experience is that God (or the gods) stands above human experience with power and authority, rewarding righteousness and obedience with good things, and punishing disobedience and other forms of unrighteousness with bad things.

A covenant faith modifies that with a concept of God that does not “lord it over” history and human experience.

Rather, God enters into both, participating in its ambiguities and struggling in a partnership that works cooperatively to reconcile the alienated, to bring wholeness to the broken, and to make justice the character of the human family.

In the Hebrew Bible, this covenant partnership is woven into the fabric of the testimony from creation, through the drama of the patriarchs, the Exodus experience, the foundational concept of the nation, and the prophets.

Also, the vision of Messiah, which points to the future, captures the fulfilment, both in and beyond history, of this covenantal and relational understanding of God.

The Christian disclosure of this understanding comes to pivotal focus in the narrative of Holy Week. The “Word who has become flesh” enters into the deepest and darkest levels of suffering at the hands of deliberate human cruelty, giving ultimate expression to the long-standing covenant promise: “I will be with you.”

The empire and its religious allies gave it their best shot in their assault on the simple yet profound truth that God is more interested in community than power, more on the side of the exploited than the exploiters, more committed to justice than to the privileged status of the self-secure.

Their efforts weren’t enough to defeat the disclosure of the character and agenda of God as the “Holy One” who enters, personally and decisively, into human experience, embracing its struggles and creating community to express in real time with real issues the work of the original covenant maker.

Beyond the appropriate remembrance of the agony of the cross and the victory of Easter, where the image is the coming from behind to pull out a victory in overtime, there is the deeper message of what kind of God this is.

A God who is willing to (and does) abandon “godness” for the sake of covenantal solidarity with humanity offers a deeper and more profound concept of what is “godly” than a more triumphalist theology might suggest.

I’m grateful for fresh light for the Easter path this year, thanks to some thoughtful fellow pilgrims and a new look at a familiar text.

It is inevitable that we look at our covenant faith through the lens of Easter, but it is also helpful to look at Easter through the lens of our covenant faith.

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