Colossians 3:5-11 – Eastertide

 

Eastertide

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).  On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! (NRSV)

Today’s New Testament reading impresses on us the necessity of choosing life.  On the Christian Calendar, Easter is not merely one day – it is an entire season.  It’s a time to focus on living into a new reality through intentionally putting to death old unhealthy practices and adopting new healthy life-giving habits.  It is the season we call “Eastertide.”

It could very well be that you have never heard of the word “Eastertide.”  Eastertide is a significant season in the Church Year which spans fifty days until Pentecost.  That’s a hefty seven weeks of bringing the new life we enjoy to the forefront.  Eastertide’s spotlight is to recognize and celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and, thus, exult in our own new life in him.

Now, you might be saying to yourself: “Why do we need to have some liturgical season about Christ’s resurrection?  Shouldn’t we be living like we recognize this every day?”  Yes, of course we should.  Yet, consider this:  If we only sing songs of resurrection on Easter Sunday; only occasionally direct our attention of Christ’s resurrection outside of Easter Sunday; then, perhaps it is sage to bring a highlighted focus to the resurrection in a special season.  Just as we would likely not think of taking only one vacation day in the year for renewal, so it is necessary to take more than one day to enjoy Easter.  If nothing else, Eastertide gives believers an opportunity to let Christ’s resurrection percolate in our hearts so that we become people in real life who exhibit an alive-spirit.  And, God knows, we could use much more of that in our congregations and our world!

If life, eternal life, and the necessity of being alive are all needs for us, then it only makes sense that we would want to take advantage of what Eastertide has to offer: A deliberate look at Christ’s resurrection, exploring its implications and impact for us.  Simply assuming we all know about resurrection will not do, any more than my wife simply assuming I love her without looking her straight in the eye and telling her so.

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:17).  Without Eastertide, there’s a sin-as-usual kind of approach to life with a sort of shoulder shrug that says, “Meh, what’s a guy to do?”  Instead, we have the hope of vibrant everlasting life because Christ has risen from death.  We have the hope of individual renewal, corporate revitalization, and worldwide revival because there is a risen Savior.

Therefore, this is the perfect time of year to engage in some renewal practices or even make a few simple changes that show signs of life.  Here are just a few ideas for lifting Christ’s resurrection into the next few months:

Pray for revival of spirituality.  Christ brings life, so praying for revival is a deliberate way of connecting with God.

Squarely address practices of the “earthly nature” which are death-dealing.  Gossip, back-biting, slander, and an entire host of sins of the tongue kill and murder people.  Simply sluffing-off someone’s acerbic speech as “that’s just the way they are” will not do, unless you want to exist in a pro-death culture.

Promote life-giving practices.  If sins of the tongue bring death, using our speech for encouragement, love, mercy, forgiveness, and building up one another promotes growth, health, and life.

Proclaim resurrection.  I believe the church is meant to be the hope of the world because Christ is the risen Lord.  This is the time for Christians to profess the resurrected Christ and how the spiritual life makes a difference in life.

Start that new ministry you always believed would make a difference.  It is the season to take a risk.  After all, if you have eternal life can you really fail?  Host a new virtual small group.  Take initiative to up your knowledge of technology.  Use your time at home to read some significant books and start an on-line book club.  Those are my ideas. I’m willing to bet you have some idea(s) rolling around inside you about blessing the world.  Now, during Eastertide, is the time to turn that idea into reality.

Focus on your daily habits of spiritual health and life.  If you would not think of skipping meals for days at a time, then consider the erosion to your soul and/or your church when folks don’t read their Bibles on a regular basis or pray with any kind of consistency.  This is also a wonderful season to explore new spiritual practices you haven’t tried or considered before.  Stick to a plan.  It will not only bring growth to your own life, but will impact those around you.

Just keeping the word “Eastertide” in front of us for the next few months can be a simple yet powerful way of reminding us that God, in Christ, has ushered-in new life.  Let the reality of Christ’s resurrection take root in your heart to such an extent that life itself informs all your thinking, speaking, feeling, and acting.

In the joy and hope of Eastertide, we pray:

That You, our risen Savior, may fill us in this season with the joy of Your life-giving resurrection.

That You, Compassionate Savior, will enable isolated and persecuted churches to find fresh strength in the good news of Easter.

That You, Loving God, may grant us humility to be subject to one another in Christian love.

That You, Lord God our Provider, may give necessities for those who lack food, work, or shelter.

That by Your mighty power, Almighty God, war and famine may cease through all the world.

That You, Great God of Mystery, may reveal the light of Christ’s presence to the sick, the weak, and the dying, to comfort and strengthen them.

That, Steadfast God, according to Your promises, You will raise at the Last Day all who have died in the faith of the resurrection.

That You, Consuming God, may send the fire of Your blessed Holy Spirit upon people of every nation and ethnicity, so that we may together bear faithful witness to Christ’s resurrection.

Heavenly Father, You have delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of your dear Son: Grant that, as the death of Jesus has called us to life, so may His continual presence raise us to eternal joy.  Amen.

Click Christ is Risen, He Is Risen Indeed by Keith and Kristyn Getty to keep the Easter songs coming.

Matthew 12:43-45

            Nature abhors a vacuum.  A plot of soil that is tilled will be overtaken with weeds if nothing is planted and nurtured in the turned-over soil.  The pecking order of a brood of chickens cannot handle the death of the top hen without filling the position almost immediately.  And, in the spiritual realm, the exorcising of a demon will not simply leave a person empty of evil – his life will be filled with something in its place.
             The Gospel story that Jesus told about the man who is rid of an unclean spirit is a powerful and simple narrative on the necessity of true repentance.  It is not enough to be rid of something bad and destructive; the evil must be replaced with something good and useful.  That is, genuine repentance is both a turning away from ungodliness and an embrace of righteousness.
             For example, the Apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to not only stop stealing, but also get a job and start sharing with others.  They were not only to stop lying and using their tongues for gossip and slander, but they were to start using their words to speak truth that builds up others.  The spiritual principle is the same as the principle from nature:  a vacuum will always be filled.  The man who did not fill his life with God ended up having a problem with evil seven times greater than when he started.
             Whether dealing with addiction, bad habits, or any kind of evil influence we must have a two-pronged approach to its eradication.  We expel the evil by replacing it with godliness.  The man struggling with pornography or adultery must not only stop the behavior, but take up and champion women’s issues.  The woman who gives herself to others to be used and abused must not only get away from the problem, but take on her true identity in Christ as a precious child of God.  These are not meant to be simplistic answers to complex situations; they are meant to illustrate why so many people do not experience freedom and continue to have greater enslavement.  Freedom can only be realized through replacing old practices with new disciplines that directly attack the old.
             O God, I no longer want to live with saying I’m sorry and going right back to the old pig slop of sin.  I cannot change on my own.  I need Jesus to both take away the sin and give me a new life of living for him.  Help me to make choices that put to death the old way of life, and the courage to live into my forgiveness from you.  Amen.