April 02, 2018
Did you know that in our church calendar, Easter actually lasts fifty days, from Easter Sunday until Pentecost Sunday? These "Eastertide" weeks are celebrated as a single joyful feast. This year, it's April 1–May 20.
N.T. Wright, an Anglican theologian, once wrote this about Eastertide:
"We are Easter people! We stand on resurrection ground. Easter is not only our greatest party (much greater by the way than Christmas, whatever you do on Christmas you ought to do ten times as much at Easter); Easter is the only reason we are here at all!
We should meet regularly for Easter parties. We should drink champagne at breakfast. We should renew baptismal vows with splashing water all over the place. And we should sing and dance and blow trumpets and put out banners in the streets. And we should invite the homeless people to parties and we should go around town doing random acts of generosity and celebration. We should be doing things which would make our sober and serious neighbors say, 'What is the meaning of this outrageous party?'"
Photo: Dancing breaks out at our 6am Easter service.
Every Sunday in Eastertide, we hear the celebrant say, "Alleluia. Christ is risen!" and we reply, "The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!" The full fifty days of Easter give us time to fully experience the joy and meaning of Christ's resurrection—the only reason we're here, in the words of Wright. Below are some suggestions on how to receive the gifts of this season.
Yes, really. Take time off of work, school, or your regular responsibilities at home, and set aside a "Prayer Day" to meet with Lord and enjoy the life he has given you. (Read this awesome Prayer Day Guide, lest you think that a Prayer Day only involves staring at a Bible in silence for 12 hours.) Since this is Easter, consider how you might creatively take a whole day to celebrate with God. Need ideas? During your Prayer Day, you might do any of the following...
Spend time reading and contemplating the accounts of Jesus' return: Luke 24:1-12, 13-35, and John 20:1-18 are great places to start. For a fresh take how to pray imaginatively with these accounts, check out these sample weeks of prayer from our Transformation Intensive class. It will jumpstart your imagination.
Holy Week allows us to engage our imagination through color, liturgy, and stories about Jesus' life told in a number different ways. There's no reason for this engagement to stop after Easter! But in addition to contemplating Biblical stories, literature is another way we can re-imagine the story of the Gospel, and begin to see it in our own lives. Several staff members shared their favorite picks to continue on the themes of Holy Week in a new way, including several for kids too! Check out the list here.
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." After a long winter (especially here in Chicago!), there are few things more enlivening than taking a long walk in the flowering woods. As you marvel over impossibly pink crabapple trees or the sudden green bursting forth beneath your feet, receive the Lord's gifts of hope and joy through the tangibility of creation.
Photo: Easter flowers.
Easter is a season for feasting! Perhaps you can throw a delicious Eastertide dinner for a few of your friends, bake a cake to share with co-workers, or reach out and provide food for those who are struggling. Even if you aren't much of a cook, you can find small ways to delight (ice cream, anyone?).
During Holy Week and Easter, did you see anything beautiful? Did you realize something new or receive healing? Or do you still feel stuck, or sad? Wherever you are, step outside of your comfort zone, and share with someone. When we share our experiences of meeting the Lord, we encourage one another's faith, and when we share vulnerably about our struggles, we build trust and friendship with those who can love and help us.
At Rez, we love stories, and we love walking with people through their stories, no matter where they are on their journey. If you would like to share a celebration story with us, click here. If you would like to talk more with a pastor, you can request a meeting here. If sharing your story feels too scary right now, you can try writing your thoughts to God in your journal, or simply listen to others share their stories.
Sometimes our Holy Week experiences can leave us wondering: what's next? The Lord always has more for us. Sometimes, that next step can be as simple as committing to attend church on Sundays. At Resurrection, we're in the midst of an Eastertide sermon series where we are going more in-depth about some of the practices, like Baptism and Eucharist, that you encountered last week. The series is called Fully Sacramental: How God Draws Us Close. We have services at 8:30am and 10:30am.
Many churches have a class for those who are newer to their community. Ours is called First Step, and it starts on April 15 at 10:30am! This is a chance for you to get to know us and for us to get to know you. No RSVP necessary!
Photo: Easter Acclamation, when we shout that Christ is Risen!
March 18, 2018
In preparation for Holy Week, we've been taking a peek into each of the three services that compose the Easter Triduum. We meet the presence of the Jesus in his servanthood and his body on Maundy Thursday. We encounter the intense love of Jesus on Good Friday in his sacrificial death. Our journey comes to its conclusion in the Great Vigil of Easter where we tell the story of God's saving deeds and fully encounter the resurrection Christ in his fully-alive glory.
The Great Vigil of Easter is the crowning jewel of Holy Week; it begins after sunset on Holy Saturday and extends through the night, culminating in the Vigil: Sunrise Service. Of all the services celebrated during Holy Week, the Easter Vigil is the oldest known service of the week. The earliest references to the Vigil are found in the second century AD. In the third and fourth centuries, Christians believed this was the most significant holy day for new Christians to declare their faith and become full members of the family of God. The Easter Vigil celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and looks forward to his coming again in glory to fully reconcile the world to himself.
The Vigil is made up of three services: Vigil: Light and Lessons, Vigil: All-Night, and the Vigil: Sunrise Service. The Vigil: Light and Lessons service begins with The Service of Light, which is often referred to as the Exsultet. The light represents our passage from the darkness of death on Good Friday into the light of life on Easter Sunday. It is at this time that the Paschal Candle is lit from a new fire outside of the church. Clergy members then process into the sanctuary with the light. As they reach the doors of the sanctuary, they stop and knock prior to entering. As the Paschal Candle enters the room, it is the only light. The Paschal Candle will burn during every service through Easter until Pentecost.
In the “Lessons” portion of this service, we dramatically reinterpret the traditional readings of our Great Vigil of Easter through visual art, theater, dance, and song. The artists of Resurrection prepare for months in advance, writing original songs, crafting new art, and theatrically interpreting these scripture stories to tell the story of salvation to the church and those who may never have heard of God’s saving deeds for all people.
The Vigil: All-Night begins with a candlelight Taize service at 9pm, before we are ushered into the Liturgy of the Word, or the vigil readings. At Resurrection, we spend one hour exploring each reading through worship, an original song, preaching, and prayer. It is a time for us to slow down and dig deeply into the story of salvation presented to us through the vigil readings. It is also an opportunity for the many lay preachers and worship leaders at Resurrection to have an opportunity to lead. Throughout history, the number of readings has varied. We currently divide the readings between theatrical interpretations in our Vigil: Light and Lessons service, and traditional reading at the Vigil: All-Night service.
At 6am the Easter Acclamation service begins, and candidates for baptism are presented even as the congregation renews their own baptismal vows. Finally, we reach the moment that we wait for anxiously during Lent and all of Holy Week: the Easter Acclamation and the Holy Noise. The celebrant exclaims to the people: "Alleluia, Christ is risen!" And the people respond: "The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia!" At this time, we shout and sing and dance as we celebrate the hope given to us all those many years ago on that first Easter Sunday morning, and we rejoice in the expectation of the return of Christ in the future.
Watch the video of that moment below:
This is truly the greatest moment of the entire year. We then conclude the service by celebrating the Eucharist, enjoying together the meal that makes us one with Jesus' body and blood and unites us with the church throughout the ages. The Eucharist reminds us throughout the year of the death and resurrection of Jesus which we celebrate during Holy Week, and the first Eucharist of Easter is an especially poignant moment as it concludes our Holy Week pilgrimage.
At Resurrection, the Great Vigil of Easter is the most widely beloved service of the liturgical year. We experience a greater sense of unity both with one another and with the Lord in the celebration of the triumph over death.