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 16, 2018
Good Friday is a solemn remembrance of Jesus' sacrifice of his own life so that we might find forgiveness and reconciliation with God. This is not a somber recapitulation of Jesus' death, but rather a thankful and reverently joyful recollection of his death that gave us life. This day and the next—Holy Saturday—are the only two days of the church calendar when there is no Eucharistic celebration. Traditionally, this service can be held at three o'clock in the afternoon or later to mark the hour of Jesus' death according to the Gospels.
It is believed that the liturgy for this service is derived from the earliest days of Christianity. The service begins in silence and with prayer. The clergy process into the room silently, dressed in black. In some traditions, they prostrate themselves before the cross at this point. Our readings for the day are from Isaiah's Suffering Servant poem (Isa. 52:13–53:12) and from the sermon to the Hebrews in which the author explains Jesus' role as our great High Priest and Mediator (Heb. 10:1-25). At this time, we return to the same Gospel reading that we read on Palm Sunday—the Passion (John 18:1–19:37). This service also includes the praying of the Solemn Collects in which we intercede for the church, our nation, and the world. Our Communion for this service consists of wafers that have already been blessed during the previous night's Maundy Thursday Eucharist. Good Friday is not a Eucharist service because we are remembering that Christ's body was in the grave, and we are waiting for his resurrected body to bring us new life. Finally, we take time to venerate the cross. At Church of the Resurrection, we lay the cross down on the chancel stage, and all who are led take a few minutes to touch the cross and pray. It is a powerful time of connection to our sacrificial Savior.
In the pilgrimage of Holy Week, Good Friday brings us to a somber and contemplative halt. From the moment the silent procession enters the sanctuary until we all leave in silence, we are invited into a focused contemplation of Jesus' death on the cross. Each scripture reading, prayer, and song points us to one man's experience on an ancient instrument of torture. Why? Because we believe that the moment Jesus died on the cross was the moment the entire world was rescued from sin and death. That is why we spend so much time savoring the reality of the cross.
On Good Friday, we celebrate both the specific instant in history when Jesus redeemed us and the reality that it can meet us in our sinfulness today. We invite the Holy Spirit to give us the grace to acknowledge our personal sinfulness and and then to immediately find forgiveness available at the cross. It is a stunningly personal opportunity to ask the Lord to highlight the sins keeping us from drawing close to him and then to set those sins down on the wood of the cross.
Join us Friday, 3/30 to experience the forgiveness and healing found in our remembrance of Christ's death on the Cross. We have the following services on Good Friday:
Stations of the Cross, 12pm & 1:30pm
Good Friday Family Service, 3pm
Good Friday Evening Service, 7pm
This is Part 4 of our "Peek into Holy Week" series. In the days leading up to Holy Week, we're taking time to prepare our hearts and minds so that we will be ready to hear the voice of the Lord. Read the next post about the Great Vigil of Easter here.