Look, we do this post every year. Every year. It’s practically part of the mission statement of our church. Restoration Anglican Church: Joining God in the Restoration of All Things (and, oh by the way, Easter is a season). But, friends, we need to hear it every year.
Lent is a season that lasts forty days—and it’s a vital and deeply meaningful part of the church calendar. During Lent, we are invited to walk alongside Jesus during his earthly ministry, attending closely to what he does, what he says, and who he is. During Lent, we are invited into the wilderness with Jesus, cultivating a renewed sense of our dependence on him through intentional practices of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Given the we live in a culture of excessive consumerism, it’s not hard to see why this season is oppositional to our everyday lives. And, yes, it’s true, we aren’t much good at depriving ourselves of our many indulgences.
On the other hand, even the secular world can appreciate the general concept of Lent. After all, we may live in a world of over-eating and over-scheduling and over-spending, but we also live in a world of cleanse diets, of purging possessions to spark joy, and de-stressing through mindfulness. We may not be well-practiced in fasting, but all of us immediately see the appeal. Lent—as most of us view it—is a time to be intentional, to be formational, to practice Christ-likeness. It has a meaning and a purpose and a form to it.
What about feasting, though? What are we to do with a season such as this?
Don’t get me wrong, we know how to cut loose. I went to bed on Easter Sunday with a more-than-iffy stomach from the second slice of pie I decided I needed. I wasn’t holding back from celebrating. But what does feasting look like the next day, and the day after that?
When we try to sustain our celebration of Easter, we face several barriers. First, we don’t really have a model for a season of feasting in our current culture. Our culture’s message when it comes to celebrating usually revolves around partying so hard you regret it in the cold light of the following morning. How do you party so that you’re still going strong on day fifty? Second, the rest of the world has moved on. It’s all about build-up for holidays—we are so excited to put out decorations months ahead of time but when the day arrives, it’s on with the show. No one else is lingering in Easter-mode. Third, feasting is just so…unproductive. There’s a part of our American selves that justifies the deprivation of Lent—it’s building character, it’s forming and shaping us, etc. But feasting? What’s the point?
The discipline of feasting during Easter, for us, really isn’t much different than Lent. In both cases, we are asked to train our attention on Jesus and what he has done. During Lent, we embrace the hard road of discipleship that leads to the cross. It shapes what we say and do. During Easter, we marvel at the most incredible, most important moment in all of history—Jesus has been raised from the dead. Death has been overthrown and we have new life in him. The plain observance of this fact demands that we drop what we are doing and celebrate. And tomorrow and the next day isn’t enough. We need fifty days to gather together over meals, to meet people in the street with a smile, proclaiming (as if to make ourselves believe): he’s alive!
Maybe what we need is purpose or meaning. We are rusty at just having fun and celebrating—we need homework. Ok, fine. In the same way that you identified specific practices of prayer, fasting, and giving during Easter, pick out some specific disciplines of celebration. In my family, we try to embrace hospitality during Easter. We mark off days on the calendar to have friends over to share a meal. Whether it’s old friends or new acquaintances, Emily and I find great joy in talking and laughing around a table.
Maybe your Easter discipline will be a really great Easter worship playlist you listen to on the way home from work, filled with songs that always make you sing along. Maybe it’s a practice of gratitude, sending texts or notes to tell others how much they mean to you. There’s endless possibilities, here but my point is this: we are really bad at knowing what actually brings us joy. And left in a season of fifty days of celebrating joy, we probably won’t make it without some amount of intentionality and thought. This week, take a moment or two and write down an Easter discipline that will help you sustain this season of joyful celebration.