Here is what seems to happen in the spring, before Easter… it seems more people are gathered for worship. Churches, like Ascension Lutheran where I have been serving, often add special services for the season of Lent, those 40 days leading up to Easter. There is much anticipation in the air. Outside, garden thoughts are starting to take hold, even in places like the upper midwest where snow still sometimes falls at Easter.
Finally, Easter Sunday comes and the trumpets sound and the pews are full and the pastor says, “He is risen!” To which people exuberantly respond, “He is risen, indeed!” It feels so alive! And shouldn’t it? Jesus has defeated death!
What energy! What excitement! What wonder! What hope!
Easter on the Christian calendar is not just one day; it’s a 50-day season!
But here is what seems to happen in the spring, after Easter… it seems less people are gathered for worship. Churches typically don’t have any additional special services for the Easter season. The anticipation seems to have withered. Outside, the world is alive with super blooms and baby chicks and bunnies. Yet it seems some of our churches seem to have forgotten that resurrection has happened and that we should be living it.
Every year after the Easter Sunday celebrations have quieted, I go to the bookshelf in my garden shed office that has books for each season of the Christian year. Not surprisingly, Christmas and Lent (pre-Easter) seem to have the biggest plethora of books. But I have this post-Easter Sunday gem of a book by Eugene Peterson called Living the Resurrection. In the opening pages, he says we need to “recover our resurrection center.” Peterson asks us to consider “how do we live appropriately and responsively in a world in which Christ is risen?"
Also in that garden shed office of mine, I have pinned on the wall the cover of an April 1962 edition of Time magazine. On the cover is a picture of theologian Karl Barth. Behind him is the empty tomb of the risen Jesus. A quote of Barth on the cover says, “The goal of human life is not death, but resurrection.” I hung this up long ago as a needed reminder to not chase things that lead to death, but lead to life.
It makes me think of the story that Jesus tells of the good shepherd. It is one of my favorite Bible passages. It goes like this...
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Life. Abundant. Full.
How do we get there? How do we live appropriately and responsively in a world in which Christ has risen? How do we live the resurrection? How do we do that when there seems to be so much that wants to steal and kill and destroy us?
I want to suggest a starting point. Each day for the rest of this Easter season (which for 2023 lasts until May 27) simply ask yourself two questions each day:
What gave me life today?
What drained my life today?
Thoughtfully ponder those questions. Pray over them. I would highly suggest journaling. Are patterns popping up as you answer those questions? Are there surprises? Are there things you knew… like something that has constantly been draining your life… but you haven’t made a change? Are there things for which you need to make more or less time?
Let me give you one little example from my own reflections. I noticed that when I sit too much and am inside, I feel my life being drained. But when I’m outside, I feel alive again. Some days, my work requires me to answer lots of email and spend lots of time on the computer. To better be able to handle such days, I now intentionally set time for “outside breaks.” Even adults still need recess! It really helps me.
So… give it a try. For these next several days of the Easter season, ponder each night what has given you life and what has drained your life. You might also want to read Eugene Peterson’s Living the Resurrection. I will be hosting a discussion on the book in our backyard garden on Tuesday, May 23, 7:00 PM. It would be great to have you there!