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Faithful Words

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By Dr. Kenneth Faught

The Easter season

 

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body.” (See Luke 24:1-12, RSV).

It is common to think of Easter as a “day” – Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after March 21 (the spring equinox). This “formula” means that Easter may fall anytime between March 22 and April 25. This year we have had a “late Easter”. Over the next five years Easter will be celebrated on April 8, March 31, April 20, April 5, and March 27. The date may vary by as much as 35 days!

In another sense, Easter is a season and not just a day. It is known as “The Great Fifty Days” on the liturgical (or worship) calendar, and continues until the Day of Pentecost. Many churches will continue to celebrate Easter this year through June 5, or the “Seventh Sunday of Easter”. The colors white and gold are symbolic of the season, helping us to reflect on the purity and royalty of Christ. Easter lilies have become symbolic of the resurrection. Traditional greetings usually take the form of “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” We sing such hymns as “Up From the Grave He Arose”.

Many Christians realize that Easter is celebrated every Sunday. The scriptures teach that Christ arose on “the third day” (counting Friday, the day he entered the tomb). Sunday is referred to as “the first day of the week”, with the “Sabbath” (or seventh day) being Saturday. This answers the question, “Who changed the Sabbath?”  Truth is, nobody changed it! Saturday is still the seventh day, a day of rest and worship in the Jewish tradition. But the earliest Christians began to meet on “The Lord’s Day”, or the first day of the week, to commemorate the risen Savior. They recognized that something unique and wonderful and powerful had occurred when Jesus came forth from the grave. In that sense, we might think of Sundays as “resurrection days”. When fasts are observed by the church (such as during Lent), Sunday is always exempt from fasting because of its significance as a “feast day” – or day of celebration. Every time you get in your car and head toward the church on Sunday morning you are giving witness to the resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central tenet of Christianity. Paul (in 1 Corinthians 15) reminds believers that because of the resurrection (1) our faith is not in vain, (2) our preaching and witness has meaning, (3) our sins are forgiven, (4) there is hope for those who have died, and (5) there is no reason to pity believers! Therefore, don’t lose Easter in your rearview mirror! Don’t think for a moment that “it’s over”. Last Sunday was Easter. Next Sunday is Easter. Every Sunday is Easter. “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”

Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFollette United Methodist Church.