celebration

It's Easter Time!

Photo by  Aaron Brunhofer  on  Unsplash

What are you celebrating?

When I see bright-colored eggs and chocolate bunnies in pastel-colored displays, I know it must be near Easter. Unless you understand the calendar timing of Easter Sunday, you probably have to check online like I do to find when Easter falls each year.

Easter isn't a big marketing holiday but stores do their best to feature lots of eggs, egg-coloring dyes, baskets, and chocolate and marshmallow bunnies and chicks. And don't forget the food! Ham is a favorite along with some scalloped potatoes or au gratin perhaps, and if you're traditional, some hot-cross buns.

But what are we celebrating with all of this? Is there a difference between Easter and Resurrection Sunday? Well, yes and no. And what about all those other traditional days people observe like Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday?

How are all of these things related or are they? Exactly! I think there's a lot of confusion about what is being celebrated and, of course, lots of back and forth about how Christians should celebrate Easter Sunday.

Some background on Easter

Easter Sunday is a big celebration for Christian churches. Not only is it an important celebration, it's one of those Sundays when a lot of people who don't normally go to church attend a service, especially if it's a sunrise service.

Our church holds an Easter sunrise service at the beach each year and it's a beautiful and well-attended celebration. I'm partial to sunrise services because it connects so well with the story of the Lord Jesus' resurrection in all four of the gospels.

Back to the question of whether there's a difference between Easter and Resurrection Sunday? There is but some background on other more traditional observances of the church needs to be considered first.

Ash Wednesday and Lent

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Lenten season that runs for forty days up to Easter Sunday. It commemorates Jesus' fasting in the wilderness for forty days and His temptation by the devil at the end of the fasting (Matt 4:1-11).

It's observed as a time to give up some pleasure or part of daily life routine as a sacrifice. It was not observed by the early church but developed and set as a church observance in 325 BC. It's observed mostly by Catholic churches and many traditional Protestant churches.

Paschal Triduum

Palm Sunday combined with the final days before Easter Sunday are considered Holy or Passion Week. The Paschal Triduum includes three important days. Which ones? It depends on who you ask or what you accept as the three most important days.

The title is drawn from Pascha, the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew Pesach for the Passover. The Passover or Seder Supper is based on the first Passover in Exodus 12, which was fulfilled by the Lord's atoning death on the cross.

Which three days? Traditionally it's been Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday but others, including me, opt for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday.

Palm Sunday

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Lightstock.com

Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter Sunday. It commemorates Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey as He was hailed by crowds of people crying out, "Hosanna (Oh Save!) to the Son of David!" (Matt 21:1-11). It is the beginning of Holy Week that concludes with Easter Sunday.

Although the early church didn't observe it, the church in Jerusalem started to observe it about the late third or early fourth century. When Jesus entered Jerusalem that day it was a fulfillment of a Messianic prophecy (Zech 9:9; Matt 21:4-5).

Sadly, many in the crowd who waved palm branches and shouted out "Hosanna!" to hail whom they believed to be the Messiah later yelled out, "Crucify Him!" (Matt 27:15-26). It illustrates how quickly emotions and opinions can change people's minds regardless of the truth.

Maundy Thursday

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Maundy Thursday commemorates the last night Jesus spent with His closest followers as told in John chapters 13 through 17. It begins with Jesus washing the disciples' feet, which included His betrayer Judas (John 13:1-17), on the night He ate the Passover feast with them (Luke 22:14-23).

The word Maundy is taken from the Latin word for command in acknowledgment of the Lord's new commandment to love one another as He loved us (John 13:34-35). This is something that needs to be remembered and practiced far more often than once a year!

Good Friday

I remember participating in Good Friday services as one of a group of pastors in the community where we shared on one of the last seven sayings of Jesus on the cross. It was a good reminder of how we are one Body—one Church unified by Jesus and His work of redemption on the cross.

My first time in the Philippines was on Good Friday where the whole country virtually comes to a  standstill to observe this solemn day with processions and prayers. As believers, we need to reflect on the atoning death of Jesus—the Lamb of God (John 1:29). Not just for His sacrifice but the purpose of His sacrifice.

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When Jesus was lifted up on the cross on Golgotha (John 19:17-18), He fulfilled the Passover once and for all (Heb 9:12, 26; 10:10, 12). This is why it is Good Friday! It may have originally been God's Friday but morphed into Good—like God's spell (story) became Gospel.

The very purpose of Jesus dying on the cross was to provide a way for all humanity to be reconciled with God the Father. God came to earth Himself as the Son of God to offer Himself for all people.

All of Jesus' earthly ministry and presence was focused on this day followed by His resurrection—His death and resurrection cannot and should not be separated in our understanding of God's work of redemption. And so, it is Good Friday but remember—as an old hymn declares—Sunday is coming!

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the official end of the Lenten season. It's also called Black Saturday in the Philippines and other places. It's a reminder of Jesus' burial in the tomb. But thankfully, it's not the end of the story!

Easter—Resurrection Sunday

Although most of us know this day of celebration as Easter, I prefer the use of Resurrection Sunday because it expresses what's most important. It's uncertain how it became known as Easter but an early connection to its origin is to the Saxon goddess of spring, Eastre. 

The important thing is to distinguish the difference between how the world around us observes Easter and why believers celebrate it. Without the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead, there is no hope of eternal life and there is no true redemption (1 Cor 15:13-17). 

Without the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead, there is no hope of eternal life and there is no true redemption
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The resurrection of the Lord Jesus on the third day after His death was the primary focus of the gospel for the early church, as seen throughout the book of Acts. It is central to Christian theology. The hope of salvation and eternal life hang on the physical resurrection of Jesus.

It's what the Lord pointed the disciples to before and immediately after His death and resurrection (Matt 16:21; Luke 24:44-47). The resurrection came on the first day of the week (our Sunday) and was the first true Christian holiday observed by the early church and the reason they began to meet on the first day of the week rather than on the last day.

I've written about this many times and in my book. Here are a few links if you're interested—

Easter or Resurrection Sunday?

So, what are you celebrating on Easter? It's easy to react to the idea of a pagan origin to Easter but the resurrection of Christ is biblical and important. It really doesn't matter what you call the day (Rom 14:5-9). What is important is why we celebrate it.

A traditional greeting for Resurrection Sunday is for one person to say, "He is risen!" and for others to reply, "He is risen indeed!" That is the essence of our hope in Jesus.

A simple way to get a true perspective on Holy Week, or Passion Week if you prefer, is to read the account of it all in the Bible. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the power of the story—God's story of redemption through His Son Jesus—trying to sort out the what and why.

Not that understanding isn't important, it is, but understanding often comes as we immerse ourselves in the story itself. When you read—allow yourself to soak in all that is written, even read it aloud, so you can see it with your mind's eye. Reading more dynamic versions of the Bible may help and you can also listen to audio versions of the Bible.

Understanding often comes as we immerse ourselves in the story itself

Here are some reading suggestions so you can do that—

Scripture Readings

Maundy Thursday and Good Friday

  • Matthew Chaps 26–27
  • Mark Chaps 14–15
  • Luke Chaps 22–23
  • John Chaps 13–17 and 18–19

Resurrection Sunday

  • Matthew 28
  • Mark 16
  • Luke 24
  • John 20–21
He is risen! He is risen indeed!

 

When God Came to Earth

What comes to mind when you think of Christmas? For me, it's Jesus. You may have heard the expression, "Jesus is the Reason for the Season."

Indeed He is, but we're celebrating much more than a child in a manger!

We're celebrating who He is and what He did!

A Time for Tears, Laughter, and Rejoicing

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RVM_reunion_062214
RVM_reunion_062214

This past weekend was filled with lots of emotion—both tears and laughter. In the midst of sadness, there was rejoicing.

We had our reunion-celebration this last weekend, June 20-22. People had the opportunity to share some testimony, as we highlighted specific areas of Rainbow Village's ministry over the past 23 years.

It was a good time. A time of remembering, affirming, and closure for those gathered.

Opportunities to share from the heart

Bec_A-girls
Bec_A-girls

The first night was an overview of Rainbow's history where some of our missionary staff shared important highlights from their point of view. Then the woman who helped us establish our process for adoptions shared, along with some sharing from adoptive families and those adopted.

The Filipino staff got to share what was on their heart, and got to see some of the fruit of their labor all grown up.

My daughter closed Saturday evening by sharing an overview and highlights from our restoration program for abused girls. Some of them shared also, so you can imagine how emotional that was.

Trying to make sense of it all

praise-band
praise-band

Sunday morning was a time of worship with our international-Filipino praise band. It was sweet seeing these who had come to Rainbow as children, now leading as young adults.

I also brought a short message based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11, 14. The gist of it follows.

Life on this earth is neither a random string of things that just happen, nor a fixed chain of events sealed by fate. Each person has free will and yet, God is sovereign over all.

One person's free will can be exercised at the cost of another's—in the form of abuse, violence, and even slavery.

In these times it may seem as if God stands by and watches without caring. Or, so it seems to us with our limited view of life. If we have  a personal relationship with Him, we know He cares. Yet we still ask, “Why God? Why do these things happen?”

This is where ministries, agencies, and NGO's like Rainbow come in. We are God's hands of restoration. RVM is one small part of a much larger network of people who bring restoration—to heal those who are abused, and to bring hope in the midst of despair.

Some perspective

The great and wise King Solomon understood this. His poetic expression reminds us of the ebb and flow of life's events on earth. Life is not random. There is a season and a purpose for everything within God's creation.

God called us—our family and others—from America to the Philippines for a specific purpose within a season of life. It began officially in 1991, but God stirred our hearts for this in 1988. It was a combination of things that stirred our hearts.

We were foster parents of two Filipina sisters for several months, along with other foster children. I came to the Philippines for a short-term mission to teach with the ministry I would join two years later.  My friend with that ministry came to the US on a furlough. While visiting with us, his wife shared her heart with Susan. They adopted an abandoned child, Aaron. His story stirred her heart with a burden and vision for an orphanage for abandoned children.

Rs_sharingThe end of Rainbow's role in God's greater purpose

Our role in God's purpose ends this year, but God's purpose continues.

Susan and I, our family, many missionary staff, and our Filipino staff were not the central focus of Rainbow Village. We were partners together with God.

The central focus was always the babies, children and young women we cared for, whom God brought to us. Their life stories continue on as a reminder of God's kindness and care—His love.

We saw many children reunited with their families, or placed in new families all over the world. Young women experienced restoration, and some started their own families.

A change of seasons

Will we miss the ministry of Rainbow and this place? And, our friends and extended Rainbow family? Sure!

But as we look over the last several months, we see Rainbow's season and purpose is completed. More work is to be done, but others will do it.

The seasons and cycles of life continue on. When we look at the bigger picture, as Solomon did, we see our place and purpose within it all.

Beauty and eternity

In verse 11 (Eccl 3:11), We are reminded that God makes every thing beautiful in its time. This is according to His time, not our time.

We are also told that God has put eternity into the hearts of people. God has put a longing in the heart of every person to play a part in His grand story. If, we choose to do so

We may not understand everything, but it's because we only see our part within the larger picture. We only see this within our season of life.

RVM_group_reunion

Frustration or fulfillment?

Whatever God does endures. Though things may appear chaotic and random around us, God's purpose prevails.

We need to see this bigger picture and respect Him. If we do not, our life will be filled with frustration and emptiness.

But when we see our role and purpose within God's greater plan, and understand it as one season among a series of seasons throughout the ages—we experience fulfillment.

Do you know your place within God's plan? If not, seek Him and ask Him to show it to you. He will if you're heart is sincere. He's given us a way to know this and to know Him, thru His Son, Jesus.

Looking forward in faith

When one season ends, another begins. Our responsibility is to find our place in God's purpose within each season. Rainbow's season has come to an end.

I don't look forward to the final closing of the gate. I will miss this beautiful place and the life we've been blessed to share in it with others. But I look forward in faith, because I've seen what God let us be a part of these past 23 years at Rainbow.

I hope you can look forward in faith also. My prayer is that you will always seek God through His Son Jesus, to know your place in His family and your purpose within His plan for your life.

Daghang salamat sa Ginoo!

There you have it. It was a full weekend, and it went too fast. It was a time for tears, laughter, and rejoicing.

We're thankful to have shared this time with those who were able to join us. And again, we're thankful for all those who served and supported Rainbow over the past 23 years.

As we say in our place in the Philippines— Daghang salamat sa Ginoo! (thank you so much, Lord!)