This season in the church calendar post-Easter but pre-Pentecost, gives us a chance to pause the story at probably the best part. Jesus is not dead—he is alive and is with us. Lent is five or six solemn weeks of sacrifice, contemplation, and repentance, where we experience the sufferings of Jesus: his forty days spent in the wilderness, his road to the cross, and ultimately his death. But then Easter hits, and we get seven whole Sundays of rejoicing—reminding us that Death was not the end of the story, that Life got the last word. Easter reminds us that when death was our reality, God came to us as one of us and conquered the grave. Death is not the end of the story for us. Instead, God is constantly working new life in us—even when we feel like we’re still waiting for that new life to start. Post-Easter Sunday, we are invited to live in the power of the Resurrection story, and to recognize Resurrection power at work, and to find ourselves marked by that new life. In this season we get time to live into the mysterious joy of the Resurrection story, to wrap our minds around it, to let it get inside our hearts and change us into Easter people.
But this season (like everything else), isn’t exactly all celebration and joy. Christ is risen, but we have yet to experience for ourselves the final Resurrection he promised was coming, the time when all things will be made new. We live in the middle of the Kingdom of God that is in some ways already here but in other ways has not yet fully come.
And the stories we're hearing from the lectionary during Easter-tide are full of already-but-not-yet Easter people. We're hearing stories of encounters with the risen Jesus, but also stories of doubt, confusion, and fear. After the disciples find out Jesus is alive, some people see and speak with him, but others only hear vague rumors and are left wondering what on earth (and in heaven) is going on? They've caught a glimpse or maybe only a whisper of Resurrection, but they're still just hiding and waiting. Perhaps this is why Thomas is reluctant to believe the reports of the others, because they're all just hiding and not really acting like they've been with Jesus or that Jesus breathed into them the fresh inspiration of the Spirit.
This makes me wonder... what does it mean to live like we've encountered the risen Christ? How then shall we live—in this tension between the new life we know and have experienced in Christ and the new reality we are still waiting for? How then should we handle each day, given that in Christ we have victory over death—it has lost its sting? How do we actively live in this time of waiting for the coming Resurrection reality? What purpose should we seek, knowing that the same power that conquered the grave lives in us?
We are called out to be an Easter people, a people marked and shaped by Christ’s Resurrection, figuring out what it means to not only wait and look for the Kingdom of God that is coming but also to be agents of that Kingdom. As Easter people, our vision has changed. We begin to see things differently, looking for the smaller—but by no means less significant—victories over death that we see breaking in to our current reality. We see Resurrection everywhere now—not because it suddenly appeared, but because now we are looking for it, paying attention, ready to jump in and be a part of what God is doing to bring new life.
As we learn to see anew in light of the Resurrection, as we sit with the fact that the same power that conquered the grave lives in us, we start responding differently. Being marked by the reversal of death makes us live differently. How then shall we live? “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).