Good afternoon! And a happy third Thursday of Easter to you.
Reflection: I've spent most of my life in churches that ignore liturgical seasons. Advent? Basically a way to start celebrating Christmas a month early. The 12 Days of Christmas? A tedious carol that was probably originally a drinking game. Epiphany? Lent? Easter? Pentecost? Easter Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, okay. But no seasons of Easter, Pentecost, etc.
Why bring this up today? Because I noticed this morning with fresh eyes that I keep mentioning Easter season in these daily devotionals. I asked myself why this is so, and came up with this best guess: I keep announcing that we are still in the Easter season because these days feel so much like Not-Easter. This year the celebratory energy of Easter morning was hard to come by on Easter morning proper, and it has been even more difficult to find and sustain a sense of Easter-infused buoyancy since then.
But ... My mind jumped to considering what actually happened in the 40 days between Jesus' resurrection and Pentecost, and the fact is that the disciples weren't exactly thriving. Read John 20 to the end of the Gospel. A week into the first "Easter Season," the disciples have locked themselves in a room because they're scared; then there's the part about skeptical Thomas; then the guys go back to Galilee, take up fishing again, and then they're surprised when Jesus shows up.
Turns out that there's precedent for developing a case of the doldrums during Eastertide. As I've already said twice this week, we are in days that are full of both rejoicing and lamenting. We are truly grateful for God's provision. And we are truly troubled by a steady stream of painful news and experiences.
Turns out that what I've been regarding as a disappointing Easter season is really nothing more or less than the normal Christian life writ large by the circumstances we're in. I think of Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 4 as one of the best honest & accurate descriptions of the "normal Christian life."
2 Corinthians 4:6-18We do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—‘I believed, and so I spoke’—we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. More Reflection: It is Eastertide. Christ is risen and everything is different for us, for everyone, forever. But we are also in a time where it takes effort to not lose heart. We are indeed 'wasting away' on the outside, and at the same time we are indeed looking forward with hope to 'an eternal weight of glory.' This isn't a particularly difficult Easter season. It's normal.
Turns out that normal is hard. Which is entirely consistent with joyful confidence that the One who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us with him. Amen.
Reading, Reflection, and Prayer: I encourage you to read these words a couple of times, then walk away from them for a bit. Come back later and read them again slowly and deliberately, silently and then out loud. Then walk away again and let them marinate.
Then, by bedtime at the latest, read them through one more time. Ask God to make the parts that have stuck with you through the day grow within you and come to a fruition of some kind.
Pray for our church, for your loved ones, for our world.
Grace and peace.
Northminster Presbyterian Church 400 Rancheria Road | Diamond Bar, CA 91765 | PH: (909) 861-4715