According to the commercial world, Easter is now well and truly over and the next 'big things' will be Father's Day, the summer barbecue season and the return to school. From there, no doubt we shall be encouraged to jump to Hallowe'en, forgetting Harvest Festival on the way through.
However, in God's kingdom, things are a little different! Easter is by no means over — in fact it has only just begun! As I write this, we are not even at the end of the first week of the Easter Season and the season lasts until Pentecost on June 9th!! So, what is this Easter season within the life of the church about?
Advent and Lent come every year before the great festivals of Christmas and Easter offering a period of preparation and prayer that there may be a better understanding of the mysteries of God, told through familiar stories and surrounded by a wealth of tradition (and superstition).
The post-Easter period also comes every year, but why does it remain significant? There will, rightly, be great celebrations on the Feast of Pentecost as the world-wide church remembers the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem among people from across the known world.
Through the gospel readings in this post-Easter period, which come this year from John, there emerges a theme for consideration: that those who come looking for Jesus and end up encountering the risen Christ are not only transformed by the experience, but also given instructions on what they are to do and be...
The women come anticipating death and a body to be embalmed; Thomas will not be put off by second-hand accounts of Jesus' resurrection and Peter is commissioned to take the work of the kingdom forward that would have seemed unthinkable from his stumbling denials of his links with Jesus. These three encounters have some powerful messages which can (and should) be shared in this Easter season.
1. Even when circumstances (and our human reasoning) seem to point in one direction, God's plans can still amaze and confound us and send us off in a totally different direction with different emotions.
2. One's own experience of God is precisely that — no one has the same experience of God as anyone else. God asks us to be authentic in our response to him, not to have someone else's experience.
3. The commissioning of Peter reminds that God does not give up on anyone, even when we perhaps feel that he should... the Spirit of transformation and hope is coming... are you prepared?