Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Eastertide: A 50-Day Celebration Of A Living Hope

The Easter bunnies bearing beautiful azaleas, orchids, and African violets have finally arrived and they will stay on my porch for the next 50 days. Easter Sunday has launched the breathtakingly magical season of Eastertide, the fifty days that follow the resurrection of Jesus until the coming of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost). I love this period of new life when I am reborn to a living hope. More than any of the other liturgical seasons this is the season to rejoice and hold onto hope. Jesus has vanquished death. He is risen indeed! Our immortality is assured through him, a living hope. 

Here's what Peter writes about a living hope: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1: 3-9) ESV.

This year Eastertide will last from April 20th (Easter Sunday) to June 8th (Pentecost Sunday). Celebrating Eastertide - yes, the entire 50 days - in spiritual and natural ways besides the bunnies has been very restorative too for my family and I. For example, my decorative garden bunny pots only come out on Easter day and they stay out only until Pentecost. Not bringing them out before Easter Sunday has helped me focus on Lent and reflect on the magnitude, grace and love of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. Now, as I focus on His resurrection and what it means to live in that power, grace, and mercy I find that what I experience the most is his irrepressible joy. That is why, I can do a bit more gardening than usual. Not only does the milder Spring weather favor it, most importantly, I hear God's voice most clearly here. The rich gardening metaphors and lessons soothe my soul and give me an appreciation for immortality, eternity, and life with a living hope. This year, another practice we have decided to try during this time, as a family, is radical hospitality, whereby each one of us will open ourselves to receiving God's grace and love in new ways and to sharing it with others. Radical hospitality is the Benedictine practice of welcoming the stranger as Christ into our homes and our hearts. We will welcome relative strangers to our home and try new family activities; we will explore new passions that help us to grow in our relationship with each other and our Savior besides experimenting with mind-body-soul connections in structured ways through our lifestyle, especially with regard to physical fitness and nutrition.  In small but significantly different ways, each of us is releasing our fears and inhibitions and trying to grow into the freedom Christ has bought for us. What does it mean, for you today, to be born again to a living hope? How does it fuel your spiritual life and spill over into your daily practices, habits, and ways of living, speaking and thinking?

I pray that this Eastertide you will experience the resurrection power daily, be born again to a living hope, and feel the joy of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Just as the apostles and mother of Jesus experienced that time of Easter ~2000 years ago. In Jesus' name, Amen.. 

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