Christ is Risen!
This is the message that was proclaimed around the world this past Sunday. This is the message that continues to be proclaimed for the fifty days following Easter Sunday. The Easter season is not over—it includes the three faith foundations of Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost. In Christian worship, every Sunday is considered a celebration of the resurrection, and now, this fifty day season is considered to be one long Sunday – an extended resurrection celebration.
This begs the question: How then do we celebrate this long Easter appropriately? Perhaps a closer look at the Easter story can help us to answer this question.
The first thing I notice is that the resurrection is like a divine game of “hide and seek.” Jesus constantly appears and disappears. He keeps surprising his followers, and often they don’t even recognize him. I find this to be a challenging reminder that Jesus cannot be “nailed down”. As followers of Christ, are tempted to think we know him and understand him better than others. We find it all too easy to exclude those who disagree with us, and convince ourselves that they’ve missed the boat.
But, the “hide and seek” Jesus reminds us that he refuses to be co-opted into our agendas, groups or belief systems. The only appropriate response to the Easter miracle is humble adoration, acknowledging as Isaiah did that, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” (Isaiah 55:8, NLT)
What this means is that our worship needs to be filled with awe and humility, and with a new desire to recognize God’s greatness and glory. This is true of every Sunday, but in the aftermath of resurrection, we have a special opportunity to embrace this humbling journey. It also means that we need to make a new commitment to living by faith, recognizing that ultimately our lives are not in our own hands, but in the nail-pierced hands of the risen Christ.
The second thing I notice in the resurrection story is that the first witness to the resurrection is not one of the “inner circle” of disciples – Peter, James and John. The first person that Jesus encounters after he is risen is Mary Magdalene – a woman with a dubious past, who was brought to vibrant life during Jesus’ ministry. As a woman, she would not have qualified to testify in a court of law, and so it’s shocking that Jesus should choose her as the first one to testify to the resurrection. So unlikely is she as a witness, that the apostles are unable to believe her at first. Peter and John both run to the tomb to check it out for themselves (perhaps feeling a little peeved that Jesus didn’t choose them to be first?).
What this means is that the resurrection continues the work Jesus did before his death—including the outcast, raising up the oppressed and breaking down our arbitrary lines of class, race, gender, orientation, economic and educational status, and religion. As we worship, then, we are called to embody the resurrection life that is available to all, and that includes all. We are also called to seek ways to bring that life to those who most need it – the poor, the excluded, the wounded and the grieving.
May the next fifty days not be just a celebration, but also an offering of practical Christ-honoring and justice-bringing service. Resurrection is about the offer of new life. So, too, must the worship that flows from it be.