The Feast of the Resurrection

It’s not a thing, yet.

Easter usually looks like pastel outfits, higher church attendance, and some version of ham taking center stage at the Sunday dinner table. At least that has been my observation of Easter in mainstream Christianity over the years. And even in more serious circles, Easter is always situated on a Sunday so that means less paid time off to reflect on deeper things.

The Feast of the Resurrection is not a thing, yet. But it will be this year, April 18-20 in my Brooklyn apartment, and you are invited. This is something Patrick has talked about for years – he believes Easter should be bigger than Christmas and certainly bigger than Thanksgiving. And I am all in. Regardless of what traditions or work schedules tell us, we know Easter is about death dying.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, ESV)

Jesus’ death and resurrection changed the course of our earthly and eternal lives. This seems like it deserves more than pastel colors, festive ham and a theatrical production on Sunday morning where a faux tomb is rolled away.

Enter the plans for The Feast of the Resurrection, a three day event with meals and Scripture and music and laughter. Slow mornings and lively afternoons and precious times gathered around a table to break bread, drink wine, and remember the life we were given when Christ conquered death on the cross.

If there was ever something to celebrate, it would be this gift. If there was ever a reason to cancel all plans to throw a big party, it would be to remember this event.

And so, it is happening. The first annual Feast of the Resurrection and I am already giddy with anticipation. I hope my preparations in Lent this year will look a little different, with this celebration in view. I am excited to see this vision of community and fellowship and joy spill over into a new tradition.

It’s not a thing, yet… but it is about to be and you are invited!

Midwestern nod meets East Coast furrowed brow

Somewhere in a less concrete castle, there were crowds of football fans gathering for tailgates yesterday in the early hours of the morning. In between the rivalries, at least in my midwestern state, there is a commonplace camaraderie that seems to make less sense in the East.

The explanation of this camaraderie looks like a few examples of common gestures you’ll see if you ever take a tour of the state where Field of Dreams was filmed. My dad is a genius when it comes to this cultural dance. He’s got creases all over his face to prove it. Name the location – gas station, mechanic shop, football game – it doesn’t matter, if you let your gaze wander to meet his eye, you’ll probably hear him say, “Hi, there” or “How we doing tonight?”

It’s not necessarily an invitation to a conversation as much as it is a declaration to neighborhood. Because in Iowa, everyone is your neighbor – I guess that can be figurative and literal. The state stretches out across corn fields (true to stereotype) and everyone kind of bands together in the ‘middle of nowhere.’ I grew up watching my dad extend this simple kindness to everyone he met and it never seemed strange. If he needed to call someone on the phone after he came in from chores at night, it would go something like this: “Hi, there. This is Dick Nichols, how we doing tonight? …… Oh, okay well good. Is Randy around at all?”

I don’t know who taught him this dance, but I think a lot of people in Iowa know it and dance it well. On the highway or the gravel road, it looks like the two finger wave – whether you know the person driving the other car or not. Everyone is going somewhere and the two finger wave is a kind way to support them on their journey. On the streets or the grocery store or at the library, it might just be a friendly smile and a nod of the head – a simple affirmation that meets a person exactly where they are.

Of course, no one from Iowa thinks about these things. They probably don’t even know there is a dance of camaraderie that outsiders might think strange. It’s just the way life is. Quite honestly, if Iowans knew I was philosophizing their mannerisms and speaking meaning into their customs, they would say, “You think too much.”

And I probably do.

But, when you move from the ‘middle of nowhere’ to a city like New York or Denver or Austin or any city, really… you realize the customs and traditions and nuances of your childhood are not universal. I don’t know what Iowans mean when they say, “Hello” or when they give a friendly nod, but I do know that people here don’t do that.

I know that when I make eye contact, people sometimes seem startled. I know that when I smile or nod or say, “Hi, there” people appear confused. I know that the city has a different dance.

Iowa doesn’t have it all figured out. They have their own set of issues, to be fair. But, as I shrug into Brooklyn like a sweater (it’s already becoming one of my favorites), there are some things about being an Iowan that I don’t want to lose and the midwestern nod is one of them.

keeping the main thing the main thing

Does anyone else (you can admit it silently – I won’t tell) have a hard time keeping the main thing the main thing when it comes to the holidays? That’s a phrase my childhood pastor would use: “keep the main thing the main thing” – and it’s a phrase that reclaims what should be simple about our faith: Christ.

Christ is always central, always best, and always worthy of celebrationAlways. Our celebration is not confined to seasons, but there is a special place for greater focus and greater reflection. Christmas is such a season and one in danger of being overshadowed by family plans, casseroles, stressful travel arrangements, Aunt Georgia’s dinner table conversation, and last minute purchases. 

Friends, today I am going to issue a bit of a challenge: don’t give in.

When Satan tries to steal today by overwhelming you with earthly expectations and burnt pumpkin pies, respond by treasuring Christ. If your family gets caught up in tradition and the schedule gets as overstuffed as the turkey, respond by treasuring Christ.

Let’s treasure Christ in our traditions and hold everything else loosely

Whether you are the one cooking the turkey or the one in charge of setting up the Christmas tree, this message by Noel Piper reminds us that traditions are Scriptural and so are holidays. Remember how beautifully the Israelites carried out their festivals and feasts? The Lord blessed those gatherings as special times set apart to rejoice with community and remember His provision for them.

As you are washing dishes or picking up the house or setting out that wooden block nativity set your grandpa made, think about ways you might treasure tradition instead of Christ. If you are struggling to keep Christ in the center, consider doing this (free) Advent Devotional

And, just so you know – you are not exempt from this encouragement if you do not have children. God has uniquely designed and equipped the Body of Christ so that we can create traditions together that treasure Him. Together we establish routines of praise where everyone has a part – widows, young families, singles, grown families, couples – there is a seat at the abundant table of tradition for everyone in God’s family to celebrate His mercies!

I do not own a home that requires rearranging nor do I have children to scold if they upset the cookie sprinkles… but I do have a responsibility as a member of the Body of Christ to step into the Christmas celebration with Christ as my greatest treasure and greatest tradition.

It is my hope that as a guest, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend I will be ready to make the main thing my favorite thing to celebrate.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

singing with the angels

I love December.

I love everything about it (if I stay away from malls, television ads, and wear many layers).

I especially love how every year something that should never be in my periphery moves into full focus. I’m always a bit surprised that it hasn’t been there the whole time; always a bit ashamed that it has to move into a place of higher importance; always a bit sad when I realize what I’ve been missing.

Christ.

Christ comes into focus and I take it all in with big eyes like He might vanish. Though I know He won’t, I revel in the anticipation and wonder of this season because Christ as my focus means being living fully alive.

December reminds me I have an open invitation to sing with the angels and this song says it well,  Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

Have you unpacked these words, friends – these words that reclaim what we’ve been so cavalier about the rest of the year? These are the lines my heart is singing today. These are the melodies that come into focus and fill my December with gratitude, longing, and the most beautiful joy.

My favorite verses may not be what the carolers are singing at your door , but they are so deep and filled with wonder.

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

Can you hear it? Can you hear the longing – Christ is the Desire of nations, the fulfillment to many, many years of longing, the salvation and only hope over evil? We are ruined by sin, but restored by His might and work on the cross. With Christ as my righteousness, I am now joined forever with my Savior!

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.

There is a rumbling in my soul that bursts out in song and celebration proclaiming these truths! Everything that Adam failed to do as the first man, Christ accomplished with perfection. We are reinstated to a place where we have no right to stand. With a holy cry, I pray today that Christ’s image is stamped in place of my flesh – that all may hear and see and wonder at the mighty work of the Lord!

Sing, friends! Sing, today with the angels this song of praise and glorious joy!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy