Whew! It’s done!
For many of us, the season leading up to Easter Sunday is the busiest time of the year. And it’s also the one in which our faith is the most front-and-center. First there’s that odd moment when worship intersects with the middle of the work week, and many of us openly wear a symbol of our faith: Ash Wednesday. I know a lot of people who wear crosses, but a fair number of them don’t claim to be Christian; they wear the cross as jewelry. But wearing ashes makes a proclamation of faith for the world to see, in a world in which faith is not always celebrated.
Then there’s Lent. A season of preparation, in which we recognize that we’re not perfect. We recognize that we have to act, to be, different to honor God. Many of us give something up for Lent; many of us prefer to take something on for Lent: a new devotion, a ministry, work in a food pantry. Lent gives us an opportunity to examine our faith, and the ways we fall short, and to actively work to deepen that faith through tangible expressions of devotion to God by connecting to the world in a new way.
Then, suddenly, it’s Holy Week. In our churches, Jesus rides triumphantly into Jerusalem while the children (of all ages!) wave their palm fronds and cry out “Hosanna!” But even as we celebrate Palm Sunday, the joy of that service is diminished as the pastor reminds us that we’re coming together again during the week to commemorate that last meal that Jesus shared with his Disciples, and then to remember the day he was nailed to the cross.
On Thursday we wash each other’s hands and feet, we share a meal, and we remember that Jesus went out to the garden to pray. On Friday our sanctuaries are stripped bare, and we hear the words Jesus spoke from the cross. We remember that he died, and we look to Sunday, when we’ll hear a more hope-filled story.
And then Easter Sunday finally comes! Christ is risen! We shout “alleluia!” and sing songs remembering that God has power even over the grave, and that as Christ rose, so we too will rise! We sing and shout and clap and celebrate!
Then the service ends. Families gather for dinner. (Pastors go home and pass out for about three days.)
And it’s… over?
Yet when we get back to church the next Sunday the bulletins say “Second Sunday of Easter” and the altar is still draped in white. But the energy is… different. Less, somehow. Like the last half hour of a birthday party after the candles have been blown out (and the cake eaten), the presents have been opened, and the celebration is over… but no one has gone home yet.
Stephen King wrote a short story called The Raft. A group of kids go out to a lake in October because there is still a raft on the water, and they want to have one last swim before the winter comes. One of the characters in the story says that the raft is like “a little bit of summer that somebody forgot to clean up and put away in the closet until next year.”1 That can be what it can feel like, these weeks after Easter, as the Easter season fades into the summer and we put it away until next year.
Is that all there is? Five weeks of preparation, one week’s rollercoaster ride from joy to celebration to sadness to horror and grief and, finally, to resurrection?
Is that all?
Only if we let it be. Easter is so much more.
People often ask why we say Lent is forty days, when there are forty-six days between Lent and Easter. The answer is this: Sundays don’t count. In the season of reflection and preparation, when we focus on how we are distancing ourselves from God by our actions, and how we need to change our lives to be more faithful, Sundays don’t count.
Because every Sunday is a celebration. Every Sunday is a time for joy.
Every Sunday is an Easter.
Not just during Lent, but all year round. Every Sunday is an opportunity for us to remember that Jesus rose for us in final proof of God’s power over everything. Over pain and sadness. Over isolation and humiliation. Over the things in this world that would drive us away from God. Over sin. Even over death.
Every Sunday is an Easter, and every Sunday we get to feel the same joy we have on Resurrection Sunday.
So hold on to Easter all year long. And rejoice! Celebrate! Sing alleluia to the Lord!
Christ is risen!
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||King, Stephen. Skeleton Crew (p. 362). Scribner. Kindle Edition.|