Christ salvation

Celebrating the Promise of Salvation – Delaware Gazette

Easter is not over yet! And it suits me very well. The resurrection of the Lord is the central premise of our Christian faith. Its celebration is the central point of the Christian year. The good news we proclaim on Easter Sunday is the very heart of the gospel message. I like a description that says Easter Sunday is something like the keystone of an arch – the top and center stone on which all others rest and depend. This key event gives us time to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. Easter Sunday then allows us to celebrate the defeat of death and the promise of salvation through the Resurrection of Jesus. Christian traditions hold that the sins of mankind were paid for by the death of Jesus and that his resurrection represents believers’ anticipation of their own resurrection. Celebration with special music, with Easter lilies and, in the case of my church, a flowered cross to which all have the opportunity to bring their spring flowers, make it a special Sunday service.

But, Easter is not over yet! We have a whole season to celebrate! Like Christmas, Easter refers not just to a single day, but to an entire season of celebrations in the Christian year. In many of our traditions, Easter Sunday is only the beginning of Easter time or the Easter season. The Easter season will continue for 50 days and end with the celebration of Pentecost. During this time we also celebrate the Ascension of Jesus. Pentecost is a key destination for our Easter season. Pentecost was originally one of the Jewish holidays. They didn’t call it Pentecost, the Greek name came later. The Jews called it the Feast of Harvest or the Feast of Weeks.

The Feast of Weeks celebrated the start of the first of two annual harvest seasons in Palestine, which meant that it always fell between mid-May and early June. The Feast represented an opportunity to bring to God the first fruits of the harvest. Christians changed this day to a holiday, not to celebrate a harvest of wheat, but to remember when the Holy Spirit entered the church as described in Acts 2. As described in Acts 2, after Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples of Jesus were gathered together for the Feast of Ingathering (now for us Pentecost), and the Holy Spirit “filled all the house where they sat… They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit permitted them.”

We have seven weeks to celebrate the Easter season and prepare for Pentecost. The seven weeks have a symbolic meaning in themselves. Seven is a number representing completeness. This “week of weeks” (seven times seven) is a symbol in time of the fullness and abundance of God’s grace. The “week of weeks” corresponds to the duration, the fifty days, between Easter and Pentecost (which actually means fiftieth). Just as we historically used the Lenten season before Easter as a time of preparation for church membership, we can use the Easter season to develop our theological understanding and ability to serve the risen Lord.

So even after Easter Sunday, this extended season gives us time to rejoice and experience what we mean when we say that Christ is risen and that we as a church are the body of the risen Lord. Keep celebrating and wishing your friends a happy Easter. As Saint John Chrysostom reminds us in his famous Easter homily, read in the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches at Easter, Christ destroyed death and now is the “feast of faith”. Rejoice and rejoice in this.

Robert J. Gustafson, Ph.D., PE, is pastor of West Berlin Presbyterian Church, 2911 Berlin Station Road.