Church, we have some celebrating to do!
It is Easter Season. Many of you are probably thinking: What is he talking about? We just celebrated Easter. It is over.
But did you know that Easter is a season and not a Sunday?
The past several years I have been stuck on the contrast between the effort and energy that many Christians put into self-denial throughout Lent (the forty days, not including Sundays, from Ash Wednesday until the first Sunday of Easter) and the lack of effort and energy that is put into celebrating Easter as a season and not just a Sunday.
My guess is that many laity do not know that Easter is a season and not just a Sunday. And that is ok. I am not here to shame you.
But I’ve been wrestling for several years. Lent is intended to be six weeks of prayer and fasting that prepares us to receive the astonishingly good news that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. In most of the churches that I’ve experienced, it seems that Lent is ultimately preparation for one worship service. And, pastors and worship leaders, please hear this: It is an awesome worship service! My experience at Easter Sunday worship services over the past decades has been wonderful. Pastors, staff, and a host of volunteers pour themselves out and go home exhausted. I know.
I am not trying to add more programming to your church.
But I am haunted by a sense that to a world that is watching, we are not living like we mean it. If what we said on Sunday is true, how ought we to live? What kind of freedom and joy should we expect to be unleashed? Are we convinced, deeply convinced, that everything has changed? Are we walking in freedom from the ways of sin and death because Jesus has already broken the power of both?
I think about Paul’s proclamation to the Corinthians. Paul described the impact of Jesus’s resurrection and what is coming at length in 2 Corinthians 15. See if you can let these words sink in just a little bit deeper into your soul today. If this is what Jesus has done for us, how should we celebrate?
Then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15: 54-56)
Can you think of anyone whose life would be different if they had an encounter with the God who swallows up death in victory? How would your life be different if the risen Jesus brought his victory where you most need it?
If we really believed what the Scripture passages we read, the sermons we preached, the hymns we sing, and the liturgy says, we would have to celebrate, right?
The world needs a church that knows how to celebrate, really celebrate, the best news that has ever been told. If we are honest, the church itself needs a church that knows how to feast and not just fast, that knows how to throw a party.
The world has problems. The church has problems. The truth is we need a savior. We need saving. And we cannot save ourselves. But a savior has come.
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
And he is for us. He has done everything that is necessary in order for us to be reconciled to God the Father and rescued from death and destruction. A broken and hurting world needs a church that knows how to properly celebrate what is truly good and able to change lives in deep and lasting ways.
If we tell a story like we just told and then go eat lunch and return to life as usual, our very lives impeach the testimony of our mouths. Celebration is a gift. It is also a discipline.
Lent is six weeks of preparation for Easter. The logic of Easter being a season is simple: If we fast for six weeks, we must celebrate the good news of Easter longer than we fasted. And so, in the church calendar, Easter is an eight-week season of celebration.
What is one step in your control that you can take to practice celebrating the resurrection during the eight week season of Easter? Particularly if you used discipline and practice in order to bring focus and intentionality to Lent, how can you use the same skills to bring focus and intentionality to rejoicing for a season and not just a moment?
May God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make us Easter people during this Season. May we practice celebration with discipline and with delight. It is not just a cliché, it is simply true:
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed.
May our lives outwardly conform to this reality.