Let Easter continue beyond one day

By the Rev. Margaret Marcuson

Do you know that Easter isn’t just one day? In the Christian year, it’s a full seven weeks that begins with Easter Sunday. I’d love to see us fully celebrate that season as a whole because the resurrection is worth more than one day. And right now we need that celebration to continue.

We face real challenges in our world and in our churches. We must be honest about them. At times we need to sit and mourn. Jesus’ disciples, male and female, did grieve his death, and that was important. But if we spend day after day focusing on the negative, we will not get anywhere. We won’t have energy to do the work God is calling us to do. We will be stuck in a state of overwhelm. Continuing the Easter celebration can give us energy to do God’s work in the world with faithfulness.

I remember the Saturday before Easter in 2002. We moved from Massachusetts back West, to Portland, and the year was not going the way we wanted. My husband was unemployed, and I was in the first stages of a new ministry to support pastors — which I had no idea how to get off the ground. That Holy Week, I went to every service I could. On Saturday, I attended an Easter Vigil service at the neighborhood Episcopal church. I had never been to such a service.

I entered the darkened church and sat in a back pew. I fumbled my way through the readings and unfamiliar hymns. As we got near the end, suddenly there was a burst of fire in the back of the church, behind me. I gasped — it was so unexpected. The fire was lit outside in the courtyard and carried in to the church. It felt like a sign from God saying: “Yes, it seems dark to you right now, but the light is coming.” It gave me encouragement to keep going.

Not magical thinking

None of this is magic. Celebrating Easter, even for seven weeks, doesn’t mean all the challenges go away. We can’t pretend everything is going to be all right. We need to face what is in front of us. We have work to do. When we cultivate a sense of possibility, new life and creativity, we’ll be in a different place as we do that work. Research by people such as Barbara L. Frederickson at the University of Michigan has found that those who are more positive actually do better over time.

The men and women who claimed the resurrection happened could have been called “unrealistic.” They could have been called “dreamers,” “out of touch with reality” and worse. However, their faith and the action they took because of their faith truly changed the world.

Here are suggestions to celebrate the entire Easter season:

  • Notice signs of new life and hope in your church, your life and the world around you. Our brains automatically go to what is wrong or what might be a potential danger. It’s old survival programming. It takes mental and spiritual discipline to focus on the positive. If you do, you’ll not only be happier but also you will see more possibilities and choices for yourself. Look for signs of the Easter light around you.
  • Limit your exposure to the media. Our relentless exposure to the negative in the news media keeps us from claiming our Easter hope and taking positive action for good. I gave up online news for Lent, and I’m continuing this practice through the Easter season. In “The Book of Joy,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu says that the wonderful things happening in our world do not show up in the headlines.
  • Read an Easter text every day from now until Pentecost. Like Lenten discipline, this exercise can be positive Easter discipline for yourself. It’s not too late to start. My favorite post-Easter texts are the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16–20), the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35), the upper room (John 20:19–29), and John’s story of breakfast on the beach with Jesus (John 21).
  • Make a list of five things you are thankful for every day. I’ve been doing so for years, and it always boosts my mood.

I invite you to join me in celebrating Easter all the way to May 20, the day of Pentecost. And of course, then we can celebrate the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The Rev. Margaret Marcuson helps ministers do their work without wearing out or burning out, through ministry coaching, presentations and online resources.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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