A Week of Sundays and a Season of Growth
April 2008 Pastor's Newsletter Article
Christ is risen. Christ is risen, indeed!
With these words we bring Holy Week to a close, and usher in the season of Easter. Easter Sunday (and the celebration of our Lord's resurrection) stands at the very heart of our liturgical year. Everything before it, leads us to it. Everything after it, flows from it. It is the central and essential nature of Easter that causes us to celebrate it not just for one Sunday, but for a week of Sundays. This year, we will begin Easter season worship services with the words, "Christ is risen" from March 23rd through May 11th (The Day of Pentecost). On those days we will explore the meaning of the resurrection, and celebrate the ways in which it gives us peace and hope and joy.
What follows is the longest season of the year - simply referred to as "The Season after Pentecost" or "Ordinary Time." This year, that season will be longer than ever, since Easter comes so early. Twenty-eight Sundays of "Ordinary Time" is a long time. But these Sundays are an invitation for us to explore what it means to live as God's people. If the first half of the church year, leading up to Easter, is all about the life of Christ (his birth, his childhood, his public ministry, his passion, his death, his resurrection and his ascension), then the second half of the church year, flowing from Easter, is all about what that means for us (how his life makes a difference in our lives today). The color for this long season is green - the color of growth - and each year we hope that it will be a time for us to grow as individuals and as a community.
The structure of the church year serves as a metaphor for how we understand faith in Jesus Christ. Our God has taken the first step in developing a growing and lasting relationship with us. As the Apostle Paul put it, "While we still were sinners, Christ died for us." [Romans 5:8] Before we could even imagine asking for it, God was willing to die for us, and make us right again. The life and death and resurrection of Jesus assure us of that.
Once graced by God, the whole rest of our life becomes an opportunity to thank God for what has been given to us. Our worship, our compassion, our generosity, our commitment to justice and righteousness, our concern for "the least of these" - we offer this all to God, not in fear and trembling, with hopes to appease God's anger, but with joy and thanksgiving, delighted with what God has first done for us. The faithfulness of our lives expresses the gratitude of our hearts.
I pray, for each of you, that this season of Easter will be one that helps you better appreciate the gift of the resurrection, and how it graces you with the love of God. I also pray, for each of you, that in the weeks that follow, you will discover new and exciting ways to grow in God's grace, and to grow in your capacity to live as faithful followers of Jesus Christ. That's what it means to live a life with the Easter message of resurrection at its very center.
God's peace to you all,
David J. Risendal, Pastor