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 12–May 31.
N.T. Wright, an Anglican theologian, once wrote this about Eastertide:
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.
However, celebrating Eastertide in full form can seem really hard right now—you might even feel like after Easter Sunday, you dipped into a “Second Lent!” Let us encourage you: Hold onto the Good. Press into the Beautiful. Pursue the True. Below are some suggestions on how to receive (and give) the gifts of this season of Eastertide even while sheltering in place during a pandemic.
1. Take time “off” for an Easter prayer retreat.
Yes, really. I know it feels like you’re already “taking time off” in a way, since many of you are working from home. However, as the lines between home and work and family overlap and smear into one another, we find ourselves in an endless loop of distracted activity and active distraction. Before you know it, it’s 11pm, and you’re crashed in front of the television, and haven’t spent even ten minutes in prayer.
Look at your week. Set aside a chunk of retreat time—at least 2-3 hours—away from work, school, or your regular responsibilities at home. For parents, this may seem impossible right now. So it might mean rising early or staying up later past bedtime. However you can, set aside extended time to meet with Lord to enjoy him and the life he has given you. (Read this awesome Prayer Day Guide, lest you think that a Prayer Retreat only involves staring at a Bible in silence. Modify as needed for coronavirus realities.)
Since this is Easter, consider how you might creatively celebrate with God. Need ideas? During your Prayer Day, you might do any of the following…
2. Dive into the stories of Christ’s resurrection.
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.
3. Keep cultivating imagination through books.
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 a few years ago to continue on the themes of Holy Week in a new way, including several for kids too! Check out the list here.
4. Experience the resurrection joy of Spring.
“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. Seeing as getting out on walks is one of the only escapes from your house right now, take full advantage of it!
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 *virtual* Eastertide dinner with few of your friends, where you each make a favorite recipe, eat it over camera together, and then share the recipes at the end.
Reach out and shop for food for those who are struggling—and throw in a few special chocolate bars. Even if you aren’t much of a cook, you can find small ways to delight (nightly ice cream, anyone?).
6. Share and listen to stories.
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. Post or record your story on Instagram and tag #churchrezcommunity so we can share it on our community board. FaceTime a friend from small group and share what’s been going on with you. If your story is personal or hard, and you need someone from church to talk to, connect with us on our Care + Prayer page.
If sharing your story with anyone feels too scary right now, you can try writing your thoughts to God in your journal, or simply listen to others share their stories.
7. Consider your next steps.
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 consistently on Sundays—albeit virtually during the quarantine. At Resurrection, we’re beginning our Eastertide sermon series, with Pastor Will Chester kicking us off as we learn about the Resurrection and what it means for us. Our services stream live at 10am on Sunday mornings.
Or, your next step might be relational. Eastertide is a time for reconciliation, for resurrection, and for new life. Maybe it’s time to finally call that friend or family member whom you haven’t talked to in a long time—the one who hurt you, or the one whom you hurt.
Finally, if church or Christianity is new to you, now is a good time to reach out to talk to someone you know who’s a committed Christian. If you don’t know anyone like that, or would prefer to keep your story more private, Father Matt Woodley would love to talk with you more. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Easter Acclamation, when we shout that Christ is Risen!