I learned one thing in Lent, at least: be sure any gift you give to someone else is flawless.
I inherited a shotgun designed for “bird shooting” or for shooting biodegradable clay pigeons in trap and skeet.
I had no use for it, but the little inheritance moved with me through four states over the decades. When it became obvious even to me that no one in my family would want it, and in a process of household downsizing, I offered to a circle of friends and colleagues. One said he could make use of it.
I examined it, broke it down for shipment, made sure it was safe to ship and to receive, and sent it off. Recycling and re-gifting in a good sense. Sharing.
Wisely, friend Barkley took it to a sporting gun shop for review. That turned out to be “a visit with a salty old gunsmith about his passion. His eyes shone as he spoke, and he handled that gun as though it were a baby.” But the surprising news was that the old gun needed work, and that parts are scarce – and Barkley had been asked which of a number of options would he like to take.
I was disappointed and embarrassed, of course. I would never give something I didn’t think was in good shape. Last time I had used the gun it was fine – but that was years before it was given to me. It had been in the possession of others in the meantime, and time had taken its toll.
Barkley asked for guidance. I responded, “Do whatever most quickly and easily relieves you of this concern.” I could almost see his relief in having an answer to his question. Done.
I’ve learned that one must be careful in gift giving. Fairly representing the gift and having reasonable confidence in its good condition are not enough. Giving someone a problem is not what I had in mind.
So, must an Easter gift be flawless?
For me this year, yes.
In my troubled sleep the night of the report of the demise of my well-intentioned gift, it became more and more clear to me that God’s gift to us at Easter is at the same time flawless and tragically flawed.
God presents the perfect, flawless gift – who offers himself freely but at a terrible cost. Jesus turns himself over to the Spirit and emerges from the wilderness and comes purposefully and publicly up to the Holy City. He is paraded around and then taken outside its walls – all the while publicly shamed, then murdered.
The perfect gift is rejected. Abused. Mocked. Beaten down. Innocence is falsely accused and wrongly executed on charges against the uneasy and unholy religious and political alliance of the day.
The body is broken. Lifeless. Jesus has given up his spirit.
The corpse is buried hurriedly nearby through one act of mercy.
The Giver and the Gift were flawless.
Would the gift, now flawed, broken, shattered, exhausted, lifeless, cold, defeated – would the gift simply crumble, dust to dust?
The Easter gift to us is that God takes the broken gift and raises him up. He comes again, rejoicing that the worst humanity can do does not defeat God. Out of brokenness and death comes resurrection.
What can I possibly give?
God knows that I am broken. Humanity is flawed.
I know this: in accepting the gift of Jesus Christ, broken and raised up, I receive the forgiveness of one who bears the scars of humanity, and who knows our flaws.
In accepting this gift from God, we offer what we have: our broken selves. All that we are, all that we have, all that we hope.
God makes this offering part of the gift of Easter, eternally.