Saturday, May 14, 2011

Why There's No Easter Fast

A friend recently posted this question in a clergy group in which we both participate: "For those of you who preach the lectionary & observe the seasons of the church calendar: What do you do to “observe Easter?” I get Lent… but I don’t always get Easter. We have 40 days of Lent for a reason: to spend time in reflection and self-examination. To feel remorse, make confession, and generally prepare ourselves for the road that leads to Golgotha and the cross. …we know that the new life of Easter cannot be fully realized until walking the path that leads through the valley of the shadow of death. So, fine. We did that. We have made Good Friday a part of our Holy Week. So, when do we get to dance? We have 50 days of Easter (Ha! Take that, Lent! That’s 10 more than you!). How do we observe these days of Easter? Is it like the 12 days of Christmas (which seems like overkill – c’mon enough with the carols!). I mean, I know Luther taught that “every Sunday is a ‘little Easter’” but what are we supposed to do with these 50 days – to usher people into the abundant life Christ promised – that we aren’t doing every other Sunday of the year?


To which I responded: "I think you're wondering why we don't have a "shape" to practices during Easter similar to Lent. I've often wondered the same thing, but have assumed there was some theological wisdom in the lack of assigned practices during the Easter season, something to do with the release from a specific shape to repentance, the freedom of the new life in Christ. In point of fact, to assign Easter "practices" would be to proclaim something other than the resurrection to new life in Christ.

That being said, there certainly is a way to live the risen life in Christ (Wendell Berry's poem provides spectacular hints at this), and I've sometimes thought that the absence of guidance on this point ends up making Easter less proclamatory than Lent--problematic.

One incredibly wise thing the church does during the Easter season is to read from Acts. Since the Acts of the Apostles is the gospel of Jesus Christ recapitulated in the life of the church, that book itself describes better than anything else we can examine how to "observe" Easter. And what do we do during Easter, according to Acts? Bear witness to the resurrection of Christ by the Father. Share everything in common. Hold fast to the apostles teachings. Heal in Christ's name. Free prisoners. Go, beginning in Jerusalem, to the whole world with the gospel. Share in a meal Christ initiated, and invite absolutely everyone to that banquet. Love God and do what you will."


And then I added this, which is, without a doubt, the best description of how to observe Easter:

Wendell Berry - Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.


  1. love Wendell Berry! thanks for sharing poetry.