For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
I know we were all home on Easter Sunday this year but we didn’t miss gathering together to celebrate Easter. At least, not yet. After all, it is still Easter.
No, the last nearly 7 weeks of social distancing have not made me loopy and confused. I know Easter Sunday was a few weeks back. I have not completely lost all sense of time. What I’m talking about is the liturgical season of Easter celebrated in many Christian churches. This often overlooked season starts on Easter Sunday and lasts through Pentecost Sunday and it has been on my mind a lot recently.
Easter of 2020 certainly was a memorable one. We worshiped from our cars at drive in services or at home via online services. We didn’t gather in our churches to proclaim “Hallelujah, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!” We didn’t show off new Easter dresses to grandparents or have big crowds of kids hunting for Easter eggs. Very few of our Easter traditions were celebrated in the usual way this year. it’s easy to feel like we lost every chance at those traditions.
However, the Easter season, or Eastertide, lasts for 50 days. It is a season which gives us time to rejoice and experience what it means to know Christ has risen. It gives us a chance to remember our own baptism. It is a season where we are invited to celebrate and ponder the birth of the Church and the gifts of the Spirit. It is a chance to reflect on how we are to live as faithful disciples of Christ.
The Easter season is ultimately a season defined by new birth, new beginnings, salvation renewed and humanity restored to the Lord. What an amazing season to be celebrating in the church right now as we look forward with hope and anticipation of being able to put the losses COVID-19 has brought into our lives behind us.
As we look towards the eventual end of social distancing and the shutdown of various sectors of the economy, there is an important question for us to ask ourselves. In our rush to return to normal, what parts of normal are truly worth returning to? This time of staying home has given many of us some unexpected gifts. Time to discover talents in ourselves and others. Time to try to out new hobbies or learn a new skill. Time to sit down and play a board game with our family. Time to talk on the phone with friends and family just a little longer. Time to just be still instead of running to the next meeting, activity, or event.
The disciples were faced with a similar sort of redefining of normal in the days after Jesus’ resurrection. For the first time in the history of humanity, death had been defeated. The prophesies about the Messiah had been fulfilled. No longer did they have to go to the temple to offer animal sacrifices as atonement for their sins. Easter is a game changing experience. They have to redefine normal. They have to take the reality of the resurrection and fit into their daily reality.
We often assume that Jesus intended to start the Christian church. However, that’s not exactly what the evidence points to. There is nowhere in the Scriptures where the Jewish people are fully disowned by God. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. He came to fulfill the law, to complete and perfect the faith of God’s people, the nation of Israel, the Jewish people. The Christian church, as we understand and experience it today, became a thing when the Jewish people who followed Jesus Christ and proclaimed Him as the Messiah were disowned by the 1st Century Jewish leaders. The Christian church became a new normal for those who followed Jesus.
The Jewish leadership of the 1st century couldn’t accept a new normal into their reality. They couldn’t accept Jesus as the promised Messiah because it meant they would have to give up too much of the power they held in their earthly positions. They couldn’t see a bigger picture. They weren’t willing to consider something new. And so they missed out on being part of redefining what it meant to worship God once their Messiah had been sent to earth. They missed out on being delivered from a life which, ultimately, would not bring them the eternal life God promises us.
This Eastertide we have been given a chance to see a different way of life. Yes, many parts of these last few weeks have been hard. There is a lot of uncertainty, fear, and grieving of what was lost. But there have also been parts which have been good for many people. There are parts which many people don’t want to give up when the shopping malls, hair salons, parks, and schools open up again.
Ultimately, the Easter season is a season which invites us to truly consider what it means that Jesus defeated death. What does it really mean to believe in the resurrection?
Pentecost Sunday this year is May 31st. I am personally looking forward to the day with great hope and anticipation. I pray I am able to gather with a group of fellow believers and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. I hope I’m able to celebrate the end of this year’s Easter season truly ready to go out and embrace a new way of life which always seeks to live as if the power which raised Jesus from the dead is available to me as well.
Meditate on what the fact that Jesus was resurrected says about his character. If Jesus had not been without sin, he would not have been able to defeat death.
Ponder what it means that death has been defeated. We who proclaim Jesus as the Son of God and put our trust and faith in Him have no reason to fear death.
Answer this question: What would you attempt to do if you truly believed that the power which raised Jesus from the dead was available to you?
Read the book of Acts and contemplate what it was like to be part of the early church. How do you allow the Spirit to use you?
Embrace that it is still technically Easter! Schedule that family get together as restrictions (at least here in Iowa) start to lift a bit. Wear fancy clothes to church when your congregation meets again for the first time. Let us know what you come up with!