How many similarities and differences do you see between Easter for today's church and Easter for those that experienced the first one? Of course, the differences are many - egg hunts, sales and shopping, chocolate bunnies, to name a few.
But one of the biggest differences also leads to one of the biggest similarities.
The first Easter was rather low-key, I would imagine. Jesus' followers were still in hiding and shock from the events of the crucifixion. Even hearing the news that Jesus was alive, there had to be disbelief, numbness, confusion - as evidenced by the conversation of the disciples traveling to Emmaus.
On the other hand, Easter in American churches is decidedly...loud. We know that it might be the only chance we have to impress those that will only enter our doors this one time, so we pull out all the stops. For many churches that means a production - a BIG production. Even several days of the big production.
That's where there can be an important similarity. What do you do when what seems like the big finish becomes the big beginning? How do you refocus when events seem to have reached their peak, when the credits should roll and everyone should live happily ever after...and Monday comes?
For James, John, Peter and the gang, three years of preparation had led them to Jerusalem and a terrible ending. The Messiah was taken and killed. One of their group had betrayed him and their entire purpose had vanished on a cross. Then Easter morning came and the terrible ending suddenly became something else entirely.
The fatigue of wasted emotion gave way to exhilaration, then to a new reality for this small group. The Messiah HAD come, but it wasn't what they had expected. Suddenly there was the responsibility of a continued and sustained...something. Something, that would become the Church.
It became the beginning of the most important fifty days in the life of the Church. Fifty days later, there was power in the upper room and God breaking through in the streets. It all started on a Monday.
That's where we are, the beginning of fifty important days in the life of the Church.
The big productions came and went. The songs were sung, the big outreaches to kids and families were produced, all hands were on deck and the ships sailed. (Okay, I mix my metaphors and overdo it a bit...and tend to run-on my sentences, but hopefully you get the idea.)
And the question for all is...now what?
We'll debrief the weekend. We'll think about the next big event. We'll gameplan for the summer. We'll try to recover physically and emotionally from what we've used in the productions and big Easter events.
But - and I'll guarantee this - the next fifty days will be important. By the time we get to May 31, we'll know how Easter weekend really went. As we head into June we'll know whether these last few days produced life or just a lot of activity.
Yes, it's been important, and hopefully some lasting decisions have been made and new life has begun.
Yes, the tomb is empty. But Monday's coming.
And 50 important days.