Easter Sunday Was A Waste of Time

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easterThe observance of Easter in the early church was more than just a one-day annual event. That celebration of the Paschal mystery was set aside not only to remember that Christ was crucified and rose again, but also to remember that He appeared following His resurrection, that He ascended, that the Holy Spirit descended and that Jesus would return again.

Because of their great joy, early Christians began their celebration and remembrance with Easter and continued for fifty days until Pentecost. Revisiting the mystery and expanding the understanding of the resurrection could assist in worship renewal through the theological realization that this celebration of redemption, sanctification, salvation, renewal and victory must not be limited to one day.

Some congregations and even entire denominations have not traditionally embraced the sacred time of the Great Fifty Days of Easter and other dates of the Christian calendar primarily out of a concern of rigidity, conformity, loss of autonomy or fear of appearing too “Catholic.”

The desire for worship creativity has caused some congregations to look elsewhere, believing that annual celebrations promote monotony. But Timothy Carson wrote, “Exactly the opposite may be true. Because it has stood the test of time, it may be sufficiently deep to allow me to swim more deeply in it. Because it is repeated, I have another chance, today, to go where I could not go yesterday.”[1]

Even as many congregations avoid the Christian calendar, they are at the same time affirming the annual observance of cultural and denominational days whose foundations are not always biblically grounded.[2]

Isn’t it ironic that in the development of our denominational and cultural calendars we have in fact created liturgies in response to our desire to be non-liturgical?

To avoid Christian calendar days that are celebrated during the same time of the year as the cultural, denominational and civic days is to ignore the very foundation of the Church. Isn’t it possible to converge holidays significant to our cultural and denominational calendar with the Christian holidays significant to the Kingdom?

Why couldn’t we celebrate Mother’s Day, Graduation Sunday and Memorial Day in the same season as Ascension Day and Pentecost? For this shift to occur, congregations must understand the significance of Easter beyond a one-day celebration. Laurence Hull Stookey wrote, “The explosive force of the resurrection of the Lord is too vast to be contained within a celebration of one day.”[3]

A renewed interest in extending the Easter celebration is based on a deeper understanding of the calendar as an ideal starting point for structuring seasonal worship. The theme of the fifty days of Easter as one single celebration provides a connection with Christians of the past church and unifies Christians of the present church in a continuous ecumenical relationship.

Observing Easter for fifty days could help congregations “recover the transforming news that Jesus’ past resurrection dramatically transforms present and future reality.”[4] Additionally, it will help them delight in the knowledge that Jesus’ death and resurrection is stamped on their spiritual biographies.[5]

Observing elements of the Christian year might be a stretch for your congregation. Make that decision, however, not based solely on the traditionalism of your denomination but instead grounded in a deeper biblical, theological and historical foundation.

 


[1] Timothy L. Carson, Transforming Worship, (St. Louis: Chalice, 2003), 57.

[2] Ibid., 56.

[3] Laurence Hull Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church,  (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996), 53.

[4] John D. Witvliet, Worship Seeking Understanding: Windows into Christian Practice (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 290.

[5] Ibid.

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6 Responses to this post.

  1. Posted by David Manner on 06.05.14 at 9:36 am

    Posted by Randy Simmons on 04.01.10 at 2:18 pm edit
    David,
    Good for you….it’s long overdue, I haven’t been Baptist since 1977. Been disciples of Christ, Episcopal, Methodist, Presybyterian and back to Episcopal finally. Now I’m basically operating outside the box after ordination, Marrying, burying, visiting the sick etc. And while one doesn’t have to have vestements, the Eucharist every time you turn around, smells and bells….it would behoove us to let our parishoners experiance the Church year. Eastertide as well as Lent leading up to it do more for letting Christians experiance Jesus. I did attend our old Church on Easter Sunday First Bapt. and was pleased to learn that all during Lent while not calling it that they had been doing 40 days of Preperation study prior to the celebration of Easter.
    Thanks for thinking outside of the box and implementing change.
    Fr. Randy+

  2. Posted by Cam Jantz on 06.05.14 at 9:36 am

    Thanks for your articles, David. This really makes sense to me. I have wondered about this very issue before.

  3. Posted by Eric Benoy on 06.05.14 at 9:36 am

    Good article, David. I am blessed to have a church that has allowed me to lead them through not only services of different worship traditions, but to add some elements of the liturgical calendar in our “regular schedule.” Once they experience it and understand it, they want to keep it — it provides another depth of meaning to them of their faith.

  4. Posted by Paul Clark Jr on 06.05.14 at 9:36 am

    Spot on again!!

  5. Posted by Donna R. Patrick on 06.05.14 at 9:36 am

    Excellent article, and great example of thinking outside the box. Love that you are expanding our thinking, and changing current perspectives on the Easter celebration. Great writing.

  6. [...]   Pentecost Sunday – “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word pentekostos which translates as “fiftieth day.”  For Jews the day comes fifty days after the first Seder, and is associated with the Feast of Weeks, commemorating the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.  For Christians Pentecost Sunday is observed the 7th Sunday (7-weeks – fifty days) after Easter, celebrating the day the Holy Spirit came to the church.  For comparable thoughts regarding the fifty days of Easter see a post by friend and colleague, David Manner. http://kncsb.org/blogs/dmanner/easter-sunday-was-a-waste-of-time/ [...]

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