Easter has passed. But the Resurrection is all around us. The sun is (mostly) out. People are returning north. New shoots of life are sprouting.
In a very real sense, Easter never passes. In the practice of the ancient church, each Sunday was understood as a small reenactment of Easter; because Christ never ceases to rise and never ceases to invite the church to rise with him.
Each year, the season of Easter presents us with stories from scripture in which the risen Jesus meet his disciples or in which the church is seized by the presence of the Holy Spirit and authorized to carry on the work of renewal, restoration and resurrection God has begun in Christ.
The German theologian Jurgen Moltmann writes that the resurrection is not in any sense a private promise. It never speaks exclusively about the hereafter. Easter is the celebration of God’s spirit that constantly courses through our veins and impels us out into the world. Easter is the time when we attune ourselves to the presence of God who meets our deepest yearnings for meaning and purpose, who promises life when so much of the world seems mired in death, or fear, or confusion, or anger.
Easter is the realized hope that through the power of God’s love and mercy, the Church can change its world, bring sustenance to its community, fellowship to its neighbors, healing and wholeness to the broken both within and outside its doors.
In John’s gospel, the risen Christ comes into a room filled with his grieving disciples. The windows are shut. The doors are locked. They have heard the news of the resurrection, but still they remain rooted in place, paralyzed by fear. A word of peace and a breath of the spirit animates them and sends them out. The church that is able to walk in step with the lead of God’s Spirit is the church that thrives.
Win Arn is a consultant who has worked with dozens of churches over the years. And he has interviewed thousands of Christians to invite their reflection on a simple question: Why are we here? Why does the church exist?
Out of his research and his conversations with church members, Arn came up with a metaphor to describe, imperfectly it must be said, one challenge facing churches today.
He suggests that churches fall into two broad categories: Bib Churches and Apron Churches. Bib Churches tend to look inward are those who devoted most of their time and energy into serving themselves, while Apron Church are determined to find ways of their serving their communities. Bib Churches can be sources of great and very real comfort to their members, who feel very much at home in worship and fellowship. But in looking inward, Bib Churches can struggle to be truly welcoming and hospitable to new people coming through their doors.
In Apron Churches, people orient towards service, towards finding those ways in which their passions, talents, interests and gifts might be shared to serve God … and also enrich their own lives with a renewed sense of purpose and meaning.
Jesus said famously and probably a little provocatively that he came not be served, but to serve, to pour out his life in the service of God and God’s people.
As Easter flows into the season of Pentecost, we are well-served ourselves to consider how the Spirit invites each one of us to consider our own, unique gifts for service to our community; and communicate our desire to engage with God in the ongoing work of bringing new life out of the Good News.