Easter isn’t a day, it’s a season: one that goes on for fifty days, from the Day of Resurrection all the way to Pentecost. I sometimes think that the modern Easter, which lasts for no more than a weekend, is part of the taming of the Resurrection: you know, putting it in its place. It turns what is awe-inspiring and beyond comprehension into something containable and easily dispatched in a morning and an afternoon on Easter Day. Trip to church; dinner with family; check that box. Come Monday morning, we’re ready to move on.
But the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead cannot be contained within one day, or even a single weekend. It requires more space and more time to unfold, because the Resurrection itself is expansive and hard to corral. What we know from the accounts of the Resurrection is that the Risen Christ is hard to pin down or constrain. The stone has been rolled away, and Jesus is out ahead of the disciples. “Rise, let us be on our way” (Jo. 14:31), Jesus says at one point in the Gospel of John. He’s in motion: appearing suddenly at the tomb, or on the road to Emmaus, or by the lakeside in Galilee. Since his Ascension into heaven he now reigns over all things, and is accessible in a new way that leaps over time and space itself. No wonder we need fifty days to begin to take it all in.
There’s nothing tame about Jesus Christ. I like what Mr. Beaver says in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe about Aslan, the lion who figures for Christ. “He’ll be coming and going… One day you’ll see him and another you won’t. He doesn’t like being tied down—and of course he has other countries to attend to. It’s quite all right. He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild you know. Not like a tame lion.” Jesus Christ, like Aslan, can’t be domesticated.
Part of the purpose of the Easter season is to give us time to assimilate the extraordinary gift of new life that comes from the Master himself. God is building capacity within us now to receive the fullness of resurrection life. He’s doing this through grace, God’s gift of his power and presence in our lives: through our faithful reception of the sacraments that are for us the ordinary means of grace, and through deepening our prayer and our relationship with God that prayer sustains. An old Easter prayer talks about “the renewal constantly at work within us” (Roman Sacramentary, Easter Week). This renewal or transformation takes time, and the Easter season gives God’s grace the opportunity to work.
Now, with Jesus’ Resurrection, the Holy Spirit is abroad in the land, reshaping the spiritual landscape and bringing change to the world. In the Gospel of John, Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on the disciples on the evening of the Day of Resurrection. This is the Spirit who, as Jesus says, “will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (Jo. 14:26). Easter season is the time of remembrance, when the Holy Spirit prompts us, calling to mind the things that we have heard and seen, and reminding us of the mission we’ve been given. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19), as it says in Matthew’s Gospel.
The Easter season is the launchpad for the mission. As our Gospel today says, the mission is ongoing. “And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it” (Mk. 16:20). Again, in John’s Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples that the one who believes in him “will do the works I do” and “will do greater works than these” (Jo. 14:12). What are the signs that God is at work in us; what are the works that we are called to do? In another Easter prayer, we pray that we may show forth in our lives what we profess by our faith (BCP, Easter Week). What does that look like to you?
Thank you, members of the Daughters of the King, for the ministries you carry forward in the Diocese of Tennessee. Thank you for modeling the life of prayer, and the ministry of service. God is constantly renewing the new life within us, stirring it up to greater works and a deeper understanding of that life. Thank you, Daughters, for showing us the way.