For Christians, Easter is the high point. Our sanctuaries are resplendent with lilies, daffodils, tulips and fresh smelling hyacinth. The vestments change from purple to white, and choirs lead congregations in robust renditions of triumphant hymns as the organ hits full crescendo. Every Easter Sunday seems to be sunny, and while I am sure there has been a cloudy one somewhere on record, in my mind’s eye I don’t remember it that way. The sun just seems to shine brighter on Easter. All of nature seems to sing of rebirth and new beginnings, the pews are full and the people are happy. “He is Risen!” is greeted back with “He is Risen Indeed!”
The Church can celebrate on Easter morning. Our Lord is risen and we believe. He has paid the price for our sin and overcome the bonds of death on our behalf. We reaffirm each other’s belief by our presence and joy, acknowledging the truth of the Gospel as a family of faith, united in mind and spirit. He is risen indeed, and so shall we be at the appointed time. Celebration is easy and joyous on Easter morning.
Then comes the hard part, the time after Easter. The post-Easter challenge is to live out the faith. We need to live the resurrection and the atonement reality as authentic believers, and we need to do so in a manner which might welcome others into a closer walk with God. The best way to do so is to rely on the Word of God itself – and as I pondered what comes after Easter I found that turning to the source revealed a simple lesson that has serious implications.
The time after Easter was not easy for the first disciples. They were scorned by the religious institution they sought to reform. They were persecuted by political powers. Families divided. But more sobering than the enmity of a hostile world were the internal challenges of doubts and dissension. One of the things I love about the Bible is that it is brutally honest about people and the human condition. Take those initial disciples right after Easter. They heard He was risen from the dead and doubted until they saw Him. But even then, even after going to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated, they saw Him and worshiped Him, “but some were doubtful.” (Matt. 28:17). Empowered by the Holy Spirit the disciples moved mountains of doubt and their numbers swelled. But even still, as we see in Romans 10:16, even after hearing the good news, not all believed. It must have been hard on those who held fast to the faith.
This pattern is not unique to the early church. Think of the Israelites after Egypt. Following 400 years of slavery God reveals His grace to His band of people by bringing them through all of the plagues, out of oppression by the strongest civil authority on the known earth, and through a miraculous parting of a sea. But they start to doubt because they cannot see His plan with perfect clarity. Some want to return to the security of oppressive authority; some simply want to take matters into their own hands and craft their own idols into gods. It must have been hard on those who held fast to the faith.
As I pondered these truths it struck me that God is a God of transitions. He is alive, not static. While He is unchanging, God is also dynamic. However, God’s dynamic nature does not mean that He is in transition – quite the opposite. God is constant and yet always on the move. And those who would be with God must be on the move as well. The goal of discipleship is not to get ahead of God nor lag behind, but walk by faith, step by step with Him. He asked Abram to move. He moved Joseph and Moses. He moved the Israelites through the desert and into the Promised Land. In the person of Jesus, God literally moved into the world and invited people to follow Him. Always on the move. The great commission was the first commandment given to the disciples after Easter and it instructed them to “go forth …”
Life is dynamic, and the challenge for each of us is to move with God and not apart from Him. There are many churches in transition right now. It is “after Easter” for them. Or, if you prefer an Old Testament analogy, they are “out of Egypt” and either in the wilderness or getting settled in a perceived promised land. It won’t all be sweet smelling hyacinths.
So once again, we should turn to the Truth – the Word of God – to see how to best handle the transitions. After Easter, I urge you to study the Epistles to see how the disciples handled transition. They handled it by relying on God and holding fast to the essential fundamental tenets of the faith; by remaining true to the commandments of God and the work of the Christ. The disciples counseled: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men … rather than according to Christ.” (Col. 2:8). “Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” (Col. 3:1-2)
For churches in transition – don’t be about the business of leaving, be about the Gospel. Think less about Egypt and more about the walk of faith of the people of a God who is on the move. Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all the rest will be added unto you. And in that way the days after Easter will be true to the One who called you.