The Meaning and Purpose of the Church Today
By this time, most of the Easter decorations will have been taken down and all but a few eggs will have been collected from the yard. In my family, we hard boiled several dozen eggs and colored them. By this time most had been converted into deviled eggs and eaten over several days. I don’t think I will ever forget the year several of my cousins got together to try to re-live some of those wonderful childhood memories and share them with our children. We colored the eggs and the Easter Bunny hid them in the yard, ready for the children to run joyfully gathering as many as they could in a short period of time. Everything went well until we noticed some amber colored goo dripping from several of the younger children’s beautiful Easter baskets. It seems there was at least one dozen eggs that we failed to boil before we colored them.
Easter lasts for 40 days in our church. The first week of Easter is especially poignant acknowledging and receiving the great joy of Easter. It begins with the Great Easter Vigil celebrating the presence of the risen Christ and our baptism into the wonderful Paschal Mystery. A new Paschal candle is bought each year and lit for each of the Sundays of Easter. After this, it is brought out and lit for each new baptism and funeral service. The 50 days of Easter should be the most festive season of the Christian year and the joy and festivities of Easter Morning continue each Sunday.
Looking over the readings for these 50 days until Pentecost, we find accounts of Jesus’ appearance for the 40 days after his resurrection until his ascension and then the 10 days of waiting for the Holy Spirit. We are reminded of the presence of the living Christ in our midst and how we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is a season of God’s new creation and the formation of Christ’s church. And for those of us in the northern hemisphere, a time of spring. This is such a time of joy and new life, many congregations who traditionally only celebrate communion monthly or even quarterly celebrate communion with the Great Thanksgiving each week until Pentecost.
Since Easter is always on a Sunday, Ascension day falls 40 days later on the Thursday after the 6th Sunday of Easter. Because of this it is often overlooked or seen simply as a historical commemoration, rather than an important part of the Easter event. Christ died and rose so that we might know eternal life; he ascended that we might experience his eternal presence and experience a life with God through the Holy Spirit.
The entire Easter season, through the Ascension and Pentecost, brings to the mind of believers the meaning and the purpose of the church today. 1) Christ is seated in heaven at the right hand of God. 2) All authority in heaven and earth is in Christ’s hands 3) Christ is with us, even to the end of time 4) We have the Holy Spirit with us 5) the power of the Holy Spirit has come upon us and we are to be Christ’s witnesses 6) we have a job to do, “why do you stand there gazing into heaven?”
As confused and hurting as the disciples were, the Holy Spirit was with them. There was something for them to do. Something very important. Everything led up to this moment. Even though they wanted to stay where it was safe and comfortable, hidden away behind locked doors, God drew them out into the world to share the Good News they had received. And it would take the rest of their lives to do it.
See you Sunday,