A pastor friend had the following update on his Facebook page on Easter Sunday afternoon: “It is finished, he cried! and then went to bed for a well deserved nap....or something like that...” It is no wonder that many pastors take vacation the week after Christmas and the week after Easter. The Advent and Christmas season is certainly busy, but it is nothing compared to Lent, which culminates in Holy Week and Easter. It is both the holiest and often most exhausting of weeks for pastors, and by the time Easter Sunday afternoon rolls around, we are all ready for a nice, long nap.
Easter is in many ways a climax and a culmination of the six-week Lenten journey. It is probably the Sunday when individuals who have any connection to a church are most likely to go. Then the Sunday after Easter, attendance is often lower than usual. It seems that pastors and regular church-goers alike feel the need for a bit of a nap after all of the Easter festivities. And yet…
Easter Sunday is just a beginning. It is the beginning of our particular faith story as Christians. The gospel stories – no matter how miraculous, amazing, or inspirational they may be – are simply good stories without the resurrection. What makes the good stories the Good News is the historic yet timeless event of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. The resurrection was an end of sorts, but even more so it was a beginning. Only after the resurrection took place could the events, miracles, and teachings of Jesus be properly understood.
The Lenten season developed as a time of preparation and self-examination for converts to the Christian faith. The Easter Vigil was the time when these catechumens would finally come forward to receive the sacrament of Baptism, thus joining the church. Easter Sunday was just the beginning of their journey in the life of discipleship. So too, for us, Easter is just the beginning of our journey of discipleship. Though our self-imposed Lenten disciplines have ended, the practices of daily discipleship remain, including prayer, reading Scripture, worshiping together, and proclaiming the Good News to others both in our speech and in our actions.
Easter is not just a “high” holy day, full of fanfare, pomp, and celebration. It is not just a once-a-year event. We are people of the resurrection, and every Sunday worship service is a celebration of the reconciliation that we have through Jesus Christ. Because of the Easter assurance, because our Savior lived, died, and in resurrection conquered all powers of evil and death, we have hope and confidence to live as we are called to live, as children of God. When it feels like we are at the end of our rope, when the stresses or demands of life seem too heavy to carry, when we have nothing left to give, we can move forward with the assurance that our redeemer lives.
Easter grounds us, but it also upends us. It shakes us out of our sleepy living just as surely as a sunrise service. We are reminded that because of what God accomplished through Jesus Christ, we are changed. Our lives are claimed – they are not our own. We are called to be followers of Christ, and only in light of Holy Week and Easter can we understand the implications of that call. If the disciples thought that the difficult part of their journey of following Jesus had ended with his crucifixion, they were sorely mistaken. Easter afternoon didn’t include a nap – it included marching orders, as Jesus told those closest to him to go and spread the Good News.
Now that Easter has passed, are we ready to be Easter people? Are we ready to respond to the resurrection reality of God’s grace and reconciliation through Jesus Christ? May it be so!