He is risen! The pastor called out from the front of the room.
He is risen indeed! We all responded with loud voices.
Easter morning had arrived. The room was filled with vibrant colors; folks clapped and danced; small hands waved their Easter ribbons as we all sang together.
I joined in the jubilation of this Resurrection Sunday.
Jesus is risen and I was ready to rejoice.
I’ve celebrated many Easter Sundays in my life, but I have to say, I haven’t always been ready for Easter.
Yes, I’ve been ready for service clad in my Sunday best, ready with delicious food for the family meal, ready with my lines and cues for the church production – ready for all the exciting trimmings of this special holiday. But not ready for Easter.
Since I was young, I have believed in the redeeming truth of Easter, but only in the last few years have I learned and experienced what it means to prepare for Easter.
Scripture speaks clearly of the significance and necessity of Christ’s resurrection. The apostle Paul writes in I Corinthians 15 –
If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. (v. 13 & 17)
Our faith in Christ has no foundation if He did not rise from the dead. The Gospel is good news because Jesus is alive!
Jesus Himself emphasizes the necessity and eternal weight of everything that took place that first Easter weekend.
He said to them [the disciples], ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:44-47)
Everything must be fulfilled. All that Christ did, all that characterized His life here on earth would culminate in His death and burial on Good Friday and His resurrection on Sunday. Christ did not just “land” on Easter weekend to close out His time on earth. His whole journey – His miracles and teaching, the testing in the desert and opposition from the religious leaders, His constant commitment to His Father – purposely led Him to the cross.
The life of Christ was consistently characterized by purpose and preparation.
This posture of readiness and heart of preparation embodied by our Savior is to characterize each one of us as His followers. The events of Easter were not haphazard; all that unfolded did not surprise our Savior. He knew everything must be fulfilled to accomplish salvation for sinners. He was ready for Easter.
The Origins and Practices of Lent —
Lent is rather new territory for me, but over the last 3 years, it has become a rich and renewing experience.
The key practices of Lent include fasting & prayer, Scripture reading and generosity. These practices were the backbone of spiritual growth and discipleship for the early church. In short, Lenten practices were a loving and pastoral response to the needs of a congregation.* The season of Lent – the 40 days of preparation leading up to Easter Sunday – became a more formal practice when Christian persecution decreased under Constantine. In 325, a diverse gathering of church leaders from around the world convened in Nicaea (in what is now modern Turkey) to decide on matters relating to theology and practice.*
The Church embraced Lent as a time of spiritual renewal and repentance – an intentional journey of preparation for Easter. Because truly, the death and resurrection of Christ changes everything, and with that knowledge, we cannot just stumble upon Easter as a Christian holiday.
We need to be immersed in the reality of the kingdom of God for big doses at a time before we start seeing its impact on our lives …We need more than a Good Friday service two days in advance to get into the state of mind and heart to celebrate Jesus’ victory over death and hell. We cannot prepare for Easter over the weekend. No, we need to walk a longer pilgrimage to get ready.*
Ready to Say Yes – Good Friday
With sober thoughts and grateful hearts, we had gathered together on this bleak but blessed day. The agony of Christ’s suffering and the awe of His forgiveness were poignant in the words sung and spoken. We came to the Lord’s table. I stood second from the end of the row and watched the elements passed to each person. On this day, at this table, my notions of piety, my feelings of indifference gave way to a flood of clarity – this practice of Communion isn’t just ceremony. I held the bread and cup in my hand … the broken body of the Lord makes me whole … His blood washes away every one of my sins. This is what I’m partaking of. This is what I need. I need Your forgiveness. I need You, Jesus.
One of the hardest aspects of this 40-day journey is saying no. Denying myself food and social media was not easy, but in setting aside comforts and minimizing distractions – in saying no – I found such satisfaction in saying yes to Jesus. Truly, that is one of the richest rewards of the Lenten season and of our entire lives – saying yes to Jesus.
Ready to Hope – Holy Saturday
In the midst of my skepticism – Lent is just a rote ritual – the proclamation of hope eternal comes storming in. Joined with the remembrance and repentance of Lent is the anticipation of our future resurrection because of Christ! In a beautiful way, Lent fuels our hope for heaven.
Lent … is a profound picture of the Christian journey. It stands between our deliverance and our home. It is a time of faith and longing, hope and expectation.*
Whether with a parable or prophetic explanation, throughout the Gospels, Jesus urges His followers to be ready for the end times, ready for His return … ready for Heaven.
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (I John 3:2-3)
John urges his readers to anticipate Christ’s return, to prepare for the appearing of our most glorious Savior. One day, we will see Jesus face to face; His perfection and purity will be revealed to us! This marvelous hope is what spurs us to remain rooted in Him, to grow in the truth of His Word, and to turn from our sin and gaze upon our perfect Savior.
Those who are expecting the Lord Jesus Christ to come and who look for that coming moment by moment and who long for that coming will be busy purifying themselves. They will not be indulging in curious speculations – they will be in preparation, purifying themselves! (A. W. Tozer)
Ready to Rejoice – Resurrection Sunday
Here we are.
We have journeyed with Jesus these last 40 days – days in which He has spoken to us, strengthened us in His Word, slowed us down and convicted us of our sin by His Holy Spirit, comforted us with His promises and fully sustained us by His power.
We will sing, we will dance and clap our hands, we will rejoice because our Savior is alive. The One who is our eternal hope is risen!
We come to the close of our Lenten journey on Resurrection Sunday ready to rejoice because everything sad is becoming untrue.*
All of the italicized quotes with an asterisk were pulled from The Good of Giving Up by Aaron Damiani. See below.
This month, I would like to pass along a title that ties right in with the heart of this post. The Good of Giving Up by Aaron Damiani has been a valuable resource for me the past few years. I read the book entirely at the beginning of my first Lenten season and continue to refer to it prior to Easter.
Aaron Damiani is a fellow Moody alumni, and I have had the privilege of visiting Immanuel Anglican Church where he is the lead pastor. Both in person and with his pen, Aaron communicates with sincerity and conviction. He has discovered the freedom of Lent and hopes the same for others.
If you are interested in practicing Lent in the future or just want a better understanding of its importance in the Church today, I highly recommended Aaron’s book.
Taken from the back cover –
It’s true, Lent can seem like an empty ritual. But what Aaron Damiani came to find, and what he describes inside, is something else entirely. Something exceedingly good. The Good of Giving Up is an evangelical case for Lent and a guide to its practice.
Lent has been described as a “springtime for the soul,” a season of clearing to make room for new growth. The Good of Giving Up will show you how, encouraging you to participate in what many know as a rich spiritual journey.