Reflections to start the week
Monday, April 6, 2015
This Joyful Eastertide
That’s one of the several wonderful hymns we sang yesterday. It provides perhaps a balance to “Jesus Christ is risen today” or “Welcome happy morning”, beautiful hymns which make the point that Easter Day (i.e., yesterday) is big, maybe the biggest day for those who try to follow Jesus. The hymn about Eastertide affirms that Easter is more than one day. It’s a season lasting for seven weeks plus. Join with me this Monday morning in reflection on the character of that season, the character of Eastertide. Join with me in deciding on ways to observe this season.
I suspect we’re familiar with the character of Lent, which just came to an end. That season is penitential and preparatory, serious and somber. For some, it’s a more-miserable-than-thou kind of experience. It may be tailor-made for introverts like me, as themes of self-examination, repentance, meditation on scripture call for much-needed focus on the interior life. But the character of Eastertide? We may have a lesser sense of Easter as season. We may not have a clear idea of how to observe it. The hymn describes the season as “joyful”? What is the nature of that joy? Where might that come from? How can I get some of that?
I know one congregation, a church that shaped me as a priest in profound ways, that tried to be as intentional in observance of the Easter season as it was observant of Lent. In contrast to the Lenten focus on the interior life, that congregation used the Easter season to focus on outreach. It took its cue from the lectionary, which invites us to read on Sundays from the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles, the story of how the church got started, the story of what the disciples did after they got it through their thick heads that Jesus was alive. The disciples went out into the world sharing good news. They proclaimed by word and example the good news of God in Christ. Through deepening love of God and neighbor, they changed the world. They built communities that cared for those in need, so much so that the church grew exponentially. Outsiders said “Look how those people love one another.’ The church grew because it adopted an outward focus.
The congregation I have in mind decided that in the season of Easter, in Eastertide, they would find their joy by figuring out how to be of service. They understood that service in Christ’s name, service as Christ’s hands and feet, was the pathway to spiritual growth. They embraced what Archbishop William Temple said almost 100 years ago: “The church is the only organization on the face of the earth that exists for the sake of those who are not its members.” As they had fasted in Lent, this congregation feasted in the Easter season on ways to be of service in the world, and invited individual and collective commitment.
So maybe since yesterday, you’ve resumed your relationship with coffee or chocolate or pinot grigio or facebook or whatever you gave up for Lent. How about considering observance of the Easter season, not by giving something up, but by taking on some specific commitment to be of service? Where do you see the need of the world? Does it surface on your city’s streets, in the news you hear from around the globe, in your workplace, school? Across the dining room table? Can you see a way to serve and meet that need? In the mystery of our faith, it may turn out to be the pathway to the deepest kind of joy.
– Jay Sidebotham
Let every man and woman count himself immortal. Let him catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection. Let him say not merely, ‘Christ is risen,’ but ‘I shall rise.’ -Phillips Brooks
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.