Using Easter as a period of reflection

Empty tomb

I don’t know about you, but certainly my experience has been that once I made it through Holy Week and Easter Sunday, things started to wind down for the program year.  I mean, goodness knows activities continued to happen and there was a substantial checklist of Things To Do (confirmation, for one, as well as honoring graduates and volunteers). But somehow, once Jesus bursts forth from the tomb, the energy began to dissipate, like a deflating party balloon. And I feel like we lose something.

Please understand! I am not here to say, “Don’t let up! Don’t slow down! Keep up that manic energy until you drop!” Instead, I think this slower period makes sense as a natural part of the cycle. In fact, after a time expending a great deal of energy, I think it’s a good thing that we take some time to recover and reflect. But how can we do this without wearing ourselves into the ground?

So for this low Sunday, and with an eye to Pentecost to come, I thought it might be worth considering how we can engage this different level of energy in active recovery, being aware of what we can do – and how we can rest – in a way that will help us deepen our relationship with God, and help our communities do the same.

1.    Have you caught up on sleep? Just starting with the basics: if you were working flat-out during Holy Week and Easter, having you taken some time to allow yourself to recuperate? Do you need a day (or more) to find out what’s going on with your family, do laundry, walk the dogs, cook a healthy meal, read a book for fun, go to bed early? Please, please get that time! Pretty please! Mark it in your calendar so that when someone calls and says, “Can you meet?” you can say, “I’m sorry, but I have another obligation that day.”
2.    Make notes for next year I can attest to how helpful this is. By good chance, one year our Liturgy Commission met the Tuesday after Easter and made notes about what had worked and what didn’t. So when planning came around at the beginning of the following year, we could pull out those minutes and voila! We had a really good game plan already. We didn’t need to say, “Now, what did we do on Maundy Thursday again?”
3.    Reflect on what happened in you Maybe it will just be in single words, or in pictures, or in writing it out, or with a spiritual director or confidant: take some time to reflect on your own experience. Where and when did you encounter Jesus during Holy Week and Easter? When Jesus was absent? When were you fed and served? When did you feel abandoned? When were you frightened? When were you filled or emptied? When did you doubt? When did you believe? Where and when did you experience new life? And know that there are no wrong answers to any of these questions! One thing I would strongly suggest: do not try to do this before you get the basic physical recuperation you need.
4.    Based on the above, is there anything you need to do right now? What is your personal next step? I firmly believe that before you can do more ministry with others, you need to be aware of what you need to do for your own spiritual, mental, physical, emotional health and wholeness. And don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice about this.
5.    Thank you notes Write them. By hand. Personally. To anyone you can think of. Really. It’s important.
6.    Map out the rest of the program year If you haven’t yet (though you probably have), create a list of all the dates and recognitions that need to take place until the end of June or so, and mark them on the calendar. You’ll have Pentecost for sure (I’ll be blogging on that more this month), but what else needs to happen? Sunday School promotion? Recognition for graduates? There often a lot going on, and it’s really helpful not to be taken by surprise at the last minute. (Checking last year’s calendar often helps!) I know this may seem like a distraction from the important work of reflection, but in writing this down, you have the freedom to let it go because you don’t have to keep saying to yourself, “I have to remember such-and-such.” Instead, you can go deeper.
7.    Invite others to reflect Maybe in a small group or in a meeting or in a newsletter article (or a blog post!).  Maybe by putting up a reflection wall or through photos or images. Maybe in youth group or as an intergenerational activity. In one way or another, invite people to enter this season of Easter as a time to reflect on all the events we commemorated and how they have worked on us. Don’t let the “what just happened?”-ness of that experience evaporate in the flurry of various events of the end of the year, as valuable as they are.  Instead, how can we take some time to go deeper?

In my opinion, the resurrection is not something we should go skating blithely by, on to the next thing, and the next, and the next. I suspect none of us think that. But sometimes we need to make the effort to put on the brakes, look around, and say, “Who was that risen Lord?” when so many things around us try to convince us there are much more important things to do.

It is only after Jesus has left that the disciples on the road to Emmaus were able to say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” But can our burning hearts keep burning if they are not given air? There are stories in our midst of the risen Lord, I am certain. They burn within our own hearts. Let’s be sure to honor them this Easter season.