Mark D. Roberts

Mark D. Roberts

Blogging Week in Review: April 9-13

posted by Mark D. Roberts

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My Blogging Monday: Is Easter a Ghost Story?Tuesday: Redesigned WebsiteWednesday: What is Easertide? Thursday: Eastertide: Fifty Days?Friday: Fifty Days of Easter: Some SuggestionsLinksHow a Christian Publisher Deals with Racism: Zondervan faces up to having recently published some racist materials. (HT: Scot McKnight)N.T. Wright on the Necessity of the Resurrection: The world’s most prolific author on the resurrection of Jesus offers a few wise words about its importance.Joe Carter Summarizes the Thirty Top Books: According to John Mark Reynolds on the Hugh Hewitt Show.VideoMy daughter and I visited Sea World in San Diego during her spring break. Here’s a two-minute clip from the roller-coaster/splash down ride at the park, Journey to Atlantis. Watch out! You might get wet!

Fifty Days of Easter: Some Suggestions

posted by Mark D. Roberts

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Note: This is an improved version of a post I wrote a couple of years ago.

In my last post I began to answer the question of what we might do if we were to celebrate Easter for fifty days. I explained that it’s not as if we ought to repeat the traditions of Easter Sunday fifty times in a row. But there are many aspects of Eastertide celebration that allow us to delight in the resurrection of Christ and thus grow in our faith as Christians.

One of the chief activities of Eastertide that I mentioned in my last post is deeper reflection on the meaning of the resurrection. Easter Sunday, as wonderful as it might be, allows us only to go so far. Eastertide opens up new territory for learning and reflection.
But there’s more still. If you have influence over the corporate worship of your church (if you’re a pastor or a worship leader), you can allow the seven weeks between Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday to be a time of continued corporate celebration of the fact that Christ is risen. In my church, for example, we sing Easter hymns and songs on the Sundays following Easter. We also continue to display the liturgical colors associated with Easter, white and gold signifying light, victory, and eternal life. (For more on the colors of the liturgical year, see my two posts: “Overview of the Christian Year” and “The Colors of the Christian Year.”)
If you’re not in a place to impact your corporate worship, you can still do things to celebrate the resurrection. For example, if Lent is a season for fasting (giving up something positive), Easter is a season for feasting (adding something positive to your life). So, if you gave up chocolate for Lent, in Eastertide you might intentionally eat chocolate, enjoying the goodness of life and remembering that joy of the life to come. (Note: Easter is not a time for pigging out, but rather to affirm the delight of God-given life.) Or you might put a vase of flowers someplace where you’ll see it regularly. Many people buy Easter Lilies for Easter Sunday and keep them for several days until the blooms begin to wilt.
One of my personal traditions, like in the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Holy Week, is to play music with specific Easter themes. Strangely, however, given the importance of Easter to the Christian, there are not nearly as many well-known Easter pieces as there are Christmas or Holy Week compositions. In fact, I have only three recordings that I consider to be Easter-focused.

1. Johann Sebastian Bach’s Easter Oratorio. This joyful cantata narrates the events of Easter morning. To hear a portion of this piece, click here (.mov 266K). The German words mean: “May praise and thanks, remain, Lord, your song of praise.” To order the Easter Oratorio, click here.
2. Johann Pachelbel’s Easter Cantatas. Yes, the composer of the omnipresent “Canon in D-Major” (.mov, 184K) wrote other pieces, including several Easter cantatas (vocal compositions with accompaniment). Pachelbel, by the way, was a friend of the Bach family, and had some measure of influence on Johann Sebastian himself. Among Pachelbel’s cantatas is one entitled “Christ ist erstanden” (“Christ has risen”). The first few words are: “Christ has risen from all his suffering, of this we should all be glad.” To hear a clip, click here (.mov 136K). To order the Easter Cantatas, click here.
3. My third Easter-focused piece of music may surprise you. I’m going to wait until next post to discuss it in some depth. Stay tuned . . . .

Eastertide: Fifty Days?

posted by Mark D. Roberts

Permalink for this post / Permalink for series – Easter: More Than Just a Day
Note: This is an improved version of a post I wrote a couple of years ago.
In my last post I shared my personal discovery of Eastertide, the fifty-day season of the Christian year set apart to celebrate that resurrection of Christ and its implications for our lives. I had promised to explain a bit further how one might give Easter its due by devoting more time and attention to this crucial holiday.
I’m sure some of my blog readers are wondering: “Fifty days of Easter? What would we do?” Surely I’m not suggesting fifty consecutive Easter egg hunts, or fifty new Easter dresses, or fifty ham dinners in a row. Celebrating Easter for fifty days is not duplicating Easter Sunday fifty times over. Rather, it’s taking time to reflect upon and delight in the truth of Easter and its implications. (The picture to the right is from Easter Sunday at Irvine Presbyterian Church.)
The basic truth of Easter is simple. In the classic litany of the church, it’s this: Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! On Easter Sunday we celebrate this good news, rediscovering for ourselves what the earliest followers of Jesus realized on that first Easter Sunday. Yet the implications of the resurrection are more than we can adequately ponder on Easter Sunday. Every year when I prepare my Easter sermon, I leave dozens of life-changing truths on the cutting room floor. There’s no way I can begin to probe the depths of Easter in a mere 20 minutes. So I proclaim the basic truth of the resurrection and explain one or perhaps two implications.
Eastertide provides an opportunity to see “the director’s cut” of the Easter sermon, if you will. It’s a chance to reflect more broadly and deeply on the multifaceted meaning of the resurrection. What might this involve? Let me suggest a few ideas:

• You could meditate upon what the resurrection says about the character of Jesus Christ as the Righteous One of God (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:25-28).
• You might ponder the fact that death has been swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54-56).

• You could reflect upon the fact that the very power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to Christians today (Ephesians 1:15-23).
• You might think of how the resurrection of Jesus is a precursor to your own resurrection (1 Corinthians 15).
• You could consider how the resurrection gives us “new birth into a living hope (1 Peter 1:3).

And so on. And so on. Eastertide allows us to think deeply and to pray extensively about what the resurrection of Jesus means, both to us and to our world.
Now some of my Reformed friends who are less inclined to recognize Eastertide might at this point object: “Look, for us, every Sunday is a kind of Easter. That’s why we Christians worship on Sunday rather than Saturday, after all. So why do we need a season to reflect upon what we should be thinking about every single week?” My answer is that many of us forget the Easter dynamic of weekly Sunday worship. Setting aside a season to focus on the meaning of the resurrection doesn’t deny the importance of weekly Sunday worship. In fact, it can enhance it.
Some of my evangelical friends would no doubt remind me at this point that the celebration of Eastertide is nowhere required in Scripture. This is an important reminder, because I do not mean to imply that every Christian must set aside fifty days for Easter celebration or else be in violation of Scripture. But I would argue that taking time to reflect intentionally on the biblical understanding of Easter, though it may not be required in Scripture, can certainly help us go deeper in our understanding of biblical truth as it pertains to the resurrection.
If nothing else, recognizing Eastertide gives us a chance to take the truths of Scripture and to allow them to percolate in our hearts. I don’t know about you, but I need this sort of percolation.
What would happen in our lives if we went through each day with a sixth-sense awareness of the resurrection? What would we attempt if we truly believed that the power that raised Jesus from the dead was available to us? What difference would it make if we knew for sure that death has been defeated through Christ?
Even if you aren’t ready to view Easter as a fifty-day experience, perhaps you can take some time today to think and pray about some aspect of Easter truth that, to this point, you’ve neglected. If you do, you’ll begin to taste the richness of Eastertide.
Tomorrow I’ll write about some other ways, besides thinking, that we can extend and deepen our celebration of Easter.

What is Eastertide?

posted by Mark D. Roberts

Permalink for this post / Permalink for series – Easter: More Than Just a Day
Note: This is an improved version of a post I wrote a couple of years ago.
As a child, I liked Easter. Dressing up in new clothes for church, singing joyful songs in worship, going to my grandparents’ house for an Easter egg hunt – I looked forward to all of these traditions each year. But, I must confess, in my mind Easter couldn’t hold a candle to Christmas. After all, the winter holiday meant lights and decorations, favorite Christmas carols, acting out the nativity story, and, most of all, lots of presents under the tree. Christmas, now that was a fantastic holiday. Easter, well, it was a fine celebration, but decidedly inferior. After all, you can’t exactly expect the Easter Bunny to compete with Santa Claus!
As I got older, I remember hearing my pastor talk about the magnitude of Easter, even suggesting that it was more important than Christmas. When I first heard this, it sounded almost like heresy. How could any holiday beat Christmas? Even granting the importance of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, Easter seemed to be at a decided disadvantage when compared to Christmas. Both holidays happened on a single day, of course, but Christmas celebrations lasted for weeks. Easter took up a few hours on one Sunday, and that was it, or so I thought.
It wasn’t until I was taking a seminary course in preparation for my ordination that I learned that some people – including many Presbyterians, much to my surprise – considered Easter to be, not a day, but a season of the year, and a seven-week season at that. Easter Sunday, in this perspective, begins a season in the church year that ends with Pentecost Sunday, the day Christians remember the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the earliest believers in Jesus. I was willing to grant that this was an interesting idea. And, by then, I did agree with my pastor that, theologically speaking, Easter was at least as important as Christmas, if not more (especially if you link Easter and Good Friday). But the notion of Easter as a season seemed theoretical at best. It certainly wasn’t a part of my own Christian experience.
During my first year as pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church I was finally introduced to a Christian community that stretched the celebration of Easter beyond just a day. Our worship director at the time, Loren Wiebe, explained to me that he took Eastertide quite seriously. This meant, for example, that we’d sing Easter hymns, not only on Easter Sunday itself, but also during worship services in the following weeks. By this time I was ready to experiment with all of this, though I must confess it felt rather strange to sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” a couple of weeks after Easter Sunday. (And “Christ the Lord is Risen Two Weeks Ago” didn’t work either.) Moreover, the word “Eastertide” sounded strange to me, like some remnant of days gone by. Nevertheless, I did my best to be a good sport. Slowly, over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate celebrating Easter for more than just a single Sunday. In fact one of my favorite Christian songs actually uses the word “Eastertide.” The song is “This joyful Eastertide,” arranged by Charles Wood. (To hear an excerpt, click here. To purchase this recording, click here. The CD cover is pictured to the right.)
As I have done in previous years, this year I want to write a bit on how we can give Easter its due. I’ve come to believe that, in many ways, Easter gets short shrift, at least in many Protestant and independent churches. As a result, we miss out on some of the richness and joy of a full Easter celebration. There’s no biblical rule that says you have to celebrate Easter for seven weeks. But I believe that if we extend our celebrations of Easter beyond a single Sunday, the result will be a more vital and jubilant faith.
In the next few posts I want to lay out some ideas for celebrating Easter as a season, not just a day. Some of these will seem obvious to you, though some, I’d expect, will be surprising. My goal, to be sure, is to stretch augment your understanding of the Christian year, much as I’ve tried to do in my series on Advent and Lent. But I’m also hoping that I might enrich your experience of Easter, which, in the end, is really the experience of the resurrected Christ.
Stay tuned . . . .

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