The Great 50 Days

Easter is over.  As a pastor for 30 years I am aware of a sense of the life of the church moving on.  We start looking towards the end of school, graduations, Mother’s Day, summer activities, Vacation Bible School, mission trips - the list is almost endless.  These are good things.  It is important to prepare for them and celebrate significant accomplishments. But wait, pause.  In fact do far more than pause for a moment.  I ask us to stop and live in the great 50 days – the time from Easter to Pentecost.  The resurrection is not a one Sunday event which we nod to and move on.  Do you remember what Paul said about the resurrection of Christ?  “If Christ hasn’t been raised, then your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins, and what’s more, those who have died in Christ are gone forever. If we have a hope in Christ only in this life, then we deserve to be pitied more than anyone else” (I Corinthians 15:17-19). In previous centuries the emphasis was on life after death.  Today we live culturally with an orientation towards life.  We now, Christians and non-believers alike, have an almost casual assumption that we are going to heaven no matter what.  It is as if our doctrine of resurrection is narrowed to a minor blip on the wider passage of life’s meaning and purpose.  In the so-called “West,” this is a part of the larger secular movement from a time of disease, famine, war and low life expectancy to a culture of relative abundance and security.  George Hunter in his upcoming book Should We Change Our Game Plan? comments “Bertrand Russell famously observed that until recent times, most serious thinking was about death. . . . People today are more likely to be asking questions about the meaning of life…” (George Hunter, Should We Change Our Game Plan?, p. 27). The risen Savior was much to say not only about life after death but about conquering of sin and hell.  The resurrection is not a one-and-done doctrine but an orientation of life Godward following the triumphant Christ! Do some cultural exegetical work.  It seems like hardly a week goes by without some new movie featuring a super hero who rescues humanity from evil and death.  This emphasis speaks volumes to the deeper hunger in our lives both individually and collectively for someone or something that can reign triumphant over the despair and destruction that stalks our time and territory.  It is here, in this landscape of despair and destruction, sin and suffering, that the gospel of the risen Christ is truly triumphant Good News!  Hell and death are conquered. Huddled in fear behind locked doors (both physically and metaphorically) then and now Jesus strides in to our midst.  Let the Good News of His victory speak again to your life.  “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.’ Then he breathed on them [breathes this day on us] and said [says], ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:19-23). I invite, nay more, I urge us to live the Great 50s in the triumph of the resurrection!