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Still Celebrating Easter (repost)

While most of us pack up the baskets and bunnies shortly after Easter Sunday, many of the more traditional branches of our Christian family tree continue to celebrate Eastertide for more than a month.  They may mark the season simply with white linen on the altar and traditional hymns, or with more elaborate community celebrations and intricate egg decorating (as pictured above).  The Eastertide season is bookended by Easter Sunday at the beginning and Pentecost Sunday at the end—remembering the day of resurrection and then the day the Holy Spirit descended to Earth.
Because I have been slow to put away my own smattering of Easter decorations, I have been reminded of this Eastertide season and drawn back into thinking about the resurrection of Jesus, its meaning and what it must have been like to walk with the resurrected Jesus.  Emotional and disorienting?  Awe?  Relief?  Joy?  Fear?  I imagine it was a season full of uncertainty.
In those resurrection weeks Jesus appeared to intimate groups and large crowds.  He encouraged grieving believers on their walk to Emmaus, shared meals with his friends, gave direction to his followers, and then ascended into heaven with a promise to send his Spirit.  In a divine farewell tour, Jesus revealed theological realities to his disciples that shape our faith today.  These events are worth considering, and even celebrating, in our own season full of uncertainty.
Here are five things I am leaning into this season:

  1. Jesus really is the Messiah, the son of God come to reconcile us to our Father and Creator, God.  We can believe the hype!  Paul said either the resurrection is true or our faith is pointless (my paraphrase, see 1 Corinthians 15:2-4).  There were plenty of witnesses to his public execution, and Jesus ensured there were also plenty of witnesses following his resurrection because it was the proof of his divinity.  As the old song goes, "life is worth the living just because he lives."
  2. Jesus is still revealing himself to those seeking the truth.  On that walk to Emmaus, before allowing the travelers to recognize him, Jesus unpacked all the scriptures about himself (Luke 24:13-25).  The travelers were talking with one another, trying to understand, and Jesus helped them.  What good news!  James, in Chapter 1 verse 5, puts it like this: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
  3. The resurrected Jesus was not just a ghost, nor was it only his spirit that was resurrected.  Not only did he eat with his friends, but Jesus famously allowed Thomas to touch his wounds.  This means it is not only our spirits that matter to God, but our bodies as well.  Our Father God is not unconcerned with what happens to us; he cares deeply about the physical and emotional pain our world is suffering, about the loved ones we know who are sick, and even about our own anxiety.
  4. There is clarity from Jesus, even when some things are still unknown.  Before ascending, Jesus is pressed again by his disciples for some specifics related to the full reign of the Kingdom of God.  His reply is twofold.  (See Acts 1:6-8) First, you don't need to know dates and times.  Second, let me remind you what your focus should be: under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, tell everybody what you know about the Lord.  This clarity is comforting.  I don't need to get bogged down with information, I do need to tune into the Holy Spirit and let him lead me to share the love of Jesus.
  5. Pray while you wait.  Those days between the ascension of Jesus and the Holy Spirit descending must have been agonizing for the early believers.  The Jewish people had waited more than 500 years for the promised Messiah, would they now wait that long for the promised Holy Spirit?  Perhaps it was the weight of that unknown that kept them constantly in prayer (Acts 1:14).  Mercifully, it was only about ten days before Pentecost and, when the Holy Spirit did arrive, his first act was to speak in languages everyone could understand.  What a sign that God, beyond salvation, desires personal relationship with each and every one of us.
Eastertide is just the beginning of our story in the "now and not yet" of the Kingdom. Pentecost Sunday this year is May 31**, so this season of Eastertide may well end just as a few of our restrictions begin lifting.   I have hope that reflecting on these events while at home might help me emerge from my own season of uncertainty with greater understanding of the resurrection and the work God has for us to spread the good news of Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

**NOTE: this blog was originally published on May 1, 2020.  Pentecost Sunday 2021 is May 23, and we are again anticipating and hopeful for fewer restrictions to be in place.  After nearly a year since the first publishing, though, it is even more clear that there are few certainties in this world.  And so to trust and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus seems more valuable than ever!

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