By Dustin Freeman, Associate Pastor at St. Andrew’s Church, Little Rock, Arkansas
I know a lot of Christians who fast during the 40 days of Lent. I’m not sure that I have ever met anyone who kept an intentional feast throughout the 50 days of Easter. That such a thing was possible occurred to me only a couple of years ago, but this year, for the first time, we are encouraging our congregation to feast beyond Resurrection Sunday and celebrate the entire season of Easter.
The church calendar pairs fasting and feasting, spiritual disciplines that reflect both sides of our situation. Christ has already won the victory, but that victory has not yet been fully consummated. Brokenness and death persist in and around us, making lament and repentance necessary, but in the resurrection, new life has also dawned! The world to come is breaking in among us, and celebrating that good news is part of what makes us a distinctive people. We celebrate not because all is well, but because we have faith that, in Christ, it will be.
What would it be like to keep a 50-day Easter feast? It may take some imagination. Our culture teaches us to celebrate by increasing consumption, which may be why we typically don’t celebrate for long. Many of us already live in such abundance that a week of extra is all that we can handle. Feasting, in that sense, already functions as our default setting. Good food and gifts may be a part of the answer, but alone fall short of what a fully Christian feast could be.
The Easter feast is an opportunity to live like the future that we hope for in Christ is already here. Like children playing at adult activities, we are invited to practice living in ways that anticipate the life of joy and freedom that we trust Christ will soon make complete in us. Feasting in this way means putting faith and hope into practice. When we give concrete expression to our hope it can become a sign to the world, a kind of preview of the world to come.
I am only just beginning to experiment with the idea of feasting throughout the season of Easter, so I cannot offer a tested set of practices to others. Instead, I hope to encourage others to experiment and collaborate in creating new traditions of celebration. To get the conversation started, I offer a few thoughts on what practicing the season of Easter might entail:
Thanksgiving and Praise: Our prayers shape our hearts. In the same way that we pray through litanies of penance during Lent, consider creating new litanies of thanksgiving and praise. What kind of fruit would spending 50 days collecting up God’s blessings and giving thanks for them produce in us?
Acts of Generosity: There is more than enough of everything that we need in Christ. Embracing the world to come looks like sharing and serving instead of collecting and competing. Easter is a perfect time to put these new-creation ways into action. Making time for others can be the ultimate act of generosity in our culture. How might our communities change if we prioritized hospitality during the Easter season?
Enjoying the family of God: No healthy family spends all of its time in structured, explicitly productive activity. We need some time to play, time to simply enjoy each other. How might investing in frivolity strengthen the body? How might outsiders’ view of the church change if we invited them to come along for the fun? Our congregation is planning a party to find out!
Rev. Dustin Freeman serves as Associate Pastor at St. Andrew’s Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.