About Me

My photo
Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Whole New Season


Luke 24:44-53 A Whole New Season




When our girls were little, like, 3 or 4 years old, we'd have a very nice time at the park or Chuck E. Cheese, and they'd declare, "This was the best day of my WHOLE life!" And, when you're 3 or 4, it probably is.


What if the best day of your whole life could have more days added to it? How would you know when "the best day" was over? Could it turn from a day to season? And if so, how would it change you?




Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.


The scripture today goes with Ascension Day. It's celebrated 40 days after Easter by Catholics, Episcopalians, and Lutherans. According to the Bible (Acts 1:3), 40 days was how long Jesus stayed on earth after his Resurrection before ascending to heaven. If you're looking at your calendar app, you see Ascension Day was last Thursday. But Presbyterians do not come to church on Thursday. So we bump it out to Sunday.


This means Easter, technically, biblically, isn't one day, but 40. Did you know that? That's a lot of bonnets. People think Easter's just one day. That's because we get Easter Sunday and Ascension Thursday all glommed together. We think Resurrection's Jesus rising up toward heaven, with trumpets and angels. But that's not how it was. It was just Jesus, and Mary, in the garden, while the dew was still on the roses. Everyone else kept racing off – going to brunch. 


Jesus actually stayed around 40 more days. 40 – It's a good Biblical number. Forty is kind of a magic number in the Bible. How long does something important take? 40 days. Moses on the mountain - 40 days. Noah in the ark - 40 days. Does the Bible mean precisely 40? Forty shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be forty?


Forty days is really just Bible shorthand for, "a long time." In West Virginia, we had a word for it: "amonthasundays" – one word. "We ain't seen y'all in: amonthasundays." It's what I say to people who are absent a lot.


40 days is amonthasundays, and a little more. But 40's also the product of 5 and 8. Traditionally, 5 signifies grace and 8 signifies a new beginning, which is what you get after Easter - grace and a new beginning. Kind of cool - if you're into math (http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/08/the-biblical-expression-40-days-and-40-nights-just-means-a-really-long-time/). 


But, who's counting, right? The number's not the point. The point is that Easter, properly speaking, is way, way more than just one special day when the people who came at Christmas rise up again.


So, Easter's not a day, but a season. According to the official rules, Easter lasts until next Sunday, Pentecost. That stretches Easter to 50 days, which the Bible calls 40, we call amonthasundays, and the NBA calls about half enough time for playoffs.


Easter Season starts with the Big Day. But for the disciples, the days that followed were the post-season. Extra innings. Overtime with Jesus. They thought everything was done. They were wrong. The best day of their lives just got extended to a whole new season.



Easter's not the only season right now. It's also Graduation Season. We live across the street from the college. Maryville College, that is. Things are gettin' crazy over there. Liberal Arts Majors Gone Wild. Singing opera all hours of the night. Kilts. Lots of kilts.


Graduation's a Big Day, whether it's college, or high school, or GED, or Parents' Day Out. The kids are all going, "I'm outta here!" The teachers are all going, "They're outta here!"  


The church often treats Easter Sunday like Graduation Day. By 12:15 it is finished (theoretically). Thank goodness we don't have to put up with that sin and death stuff anymore. Crank up the organ. Someone else is paying the debt. Free at last, free at last.


Our house looks right out at the college dorms. The day AFTER graduation, there's this eerie silence. The parents bring the cars up to the doors and put all the student's earthly belongings in the back of the Hyundai. I get this sense that they're thinking, "Oh. My. God." (The students AND the parents.) But Surprise! – the Big Day isn't The End. It's just the start of the post-season. It's a happy time, but also kind of terrifying.


I imagine that starting Easter afternoon, the disciples went into post-graduate shock. It's an unbelievably happy time. Jesus is alive! But don't you think it also had to be pretty terrifying, too? Jesus… is alive. Oh. My. God. (Exactly.) It's a whole new season.




The Bible's kind of sketchy about everything Jesus said and taught in those post-Easter 40 days. What we read today is probably a summary.


"These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you...."


In other words, "I told you so!" Parents, isn't it nice to hear Jesus saying that, too? Hopefully the disciples said something like, "Oh, you were so much smarter than we thought. We didn't really listen the first hundred times, but now we really get it." Well, you hope.


I think that's a big problem for a lot of us with trying to be followers of Jesus. I mean, the rules are pretty simple, right? Love God, love your neighbor. Love your enemies. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Is any of this new material? Of course not. You know this stuff. If we gave an end-of-course final (an EOC), you'd all pass with flying colors. I know you would.


The problem isn't the rules. We know the rulebook. The game itself's a little harder. There IS a difference. For one thing, the playing field keeps changing. You're home. You're away. You're home. You're away someplace else. There are substitutions and injuries and new personnel – all the time. And some idiot keeps deflating the air out of you. Stars disappoint. Losers surprise you. You let yourself down by how you don't do what you know Jesus said to do. Seasons change on a dime.


Following Jesus is it always takes 40 days more. Another month of Sundays is around the corner. There's always one more lesson, isn't there? And it's usually when I think I'm setting the curve that I realize I'm actually starting over, again.


Easter is simply too Big for 24 hours. We deceive ourselves if we think it's only one day. We need time. We need a season. We need however long those forty days turn out to be. Why? Because graduation is gradual. When it comes to Easter we all graduate by degrees. And just as the world turns, Jesus always comes back around, again – and again. He's always the same. But he's always new. He's always got another lesson. He just keeps coming back, because we need him to.


The good news is that Easter, the best day of our lives, isn't just one day. It's the start of our whole new season. What are you going to do with yours?