This past Sunday we concluded our Eastertide (the 50 days following Easter) series called The Risen Life, in which we studied the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus from the perspective of what His risen life shows us about what it means for us to live as people who have died with Christ and been risen to new life.
Here’s the video of the Easter service, which includes the greetings from those missionaries:
Some of the missionaries in Ukraine mentioned that their country celebrates Easter a week later than we do in the United States, leading some people to ask why that is.
Council of Nicea (325 AD): Setting a Common Date for Easter
The First Ecumenical Council of Christin leaders around the world as held in 325 AD and is known as the Council of Nicea.
Prior to Nicea, churches in different parts of the world celebrated Easter on different Sundays of the year. In order to bring unity, council members created a formula to would calculate the date for Easter for all churches around the world: the first Sunday after the first full moon which follows the vernal equinox, after the Jewish Passover.
To avoid confusion, it determined that the vernal equinox was on March 21. This system guaranteed that all churches around the world celebrated Easter on the same day.
The Great Schism and the Introduction of the Georgian Calendar
In 1054 the Eastern and Western churches split. The division was for theological, cultural, and political reasons. Shortly after this, Pope Gregory VIII introduced the Gregorian calendar, whereas the Eastern Empire continued with the Julian calendar, which had been used since the time of Julius Caesar.
The reason for the introduction of the Gregorian calendar was the realization that the Julian calendar was discovered to be 11 minutes too long, which, though not much, led to the spring equinox no longer being on March 21 by that time. The Gregorian calendar sought to bring correction to this issue, whereas the Eastern Empire (and its churches) continued with the Julian calendar despite the fact that according to it, the vernal equinox was no longer on March 21.
By using two different calendar systems, the vernal equinox now fell on March 21 under the Gregorian calendar and April 3 on the Julian calendar. The two empires (and their churches), as a result, began celebrating Easter on two different days, though on occasion Easter date does still fall on the same day for both calendars (e.g. in 2017 and next in 2025).
The Apostles’ Creed, one of the oldest Christian creeds – in continual existence since at least the 4th Century A.D. – contains a line which many people have found intriguing: it declares that Jesus “descended to the dead.”
Older translations of the original text into English sometimes translate this phrase as saying that Jesus “descended into Hell.”
Looking at the creed in ancient languages is interesting as the Greek text says: κατελθόντα εἰς τὰ κατώτατα, which means: “descended to the bottom” – and the Latin text says: descendit ad inferos, the word inferos being translated as “Hell.”
More recent translations into English have chosen to say “descended to the dead” rather than “descended into Hell” as “the dead” would be more accurate biblically and theologically than “Hell.” The reason for this is based on a particular understanding of “Sheol” in the Old Testament and the Jewish mind, which was the dwelling place of all souls, being divided (according to Luke 16:19-31) into two parts: Abraham’s Bosom and Hades, AKA: Hell.
Abraham’s Bosom, we are told in Luke 16, was a place of comfort for those who died in faith, i.e. the “Old Testament saints,” such as those described in Hebrews 11, who died prior to the redemptive actions of Jesus, but died in faith that they would be “raised up to a better life” (Hebrews 11:35)
He Proclaimed What He Had Done, and Led Captives in His Train
In 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6, Peter tells us that Jesus’ spirit went to Sheol after his death on the cross but prior to his resurrection, and declared to the souls of the deceased there what he had accomplished in his life and death. This message would have been:
A message of redemption and release from Sheol for those who were kept in Abraham’s Bosom awaiting the redemptive work of the Messiah (“He led captives in his train” – Ephesians 4:8)
A message of condemnation for those held in the Hades/Hell portion of Sheol.
God Often Does His Greatest Work in the Dark
For the disciples, that first “Holy Saturday” would have seemed much less than holy. It would have felt like defeat and been perhaps the lowest point in their lives. Many of them, having left everything to follow Jesus, would have been wondering, “Now what am I going to do with my life?” – not to mention the fact that they were afraid that they would be next: that the Romans and Jewish leaders would likely come be coming to arrest and execute them as well.
And yet, in the awful silence of that day, God was doing a great work of redemption!
Remember: with God, silence is not absence. Sometimes when God seems most distant to us, is when He is accomplishing his most profound work.
That is the reminder of Holy Saturday: we can’t always see what God is doing.
May God bless you and give you rest in your soul this Holy Saturday!
For Christians, Easter is our biggest celebration of the year. And yet, how do you celebrate in the midst of a crisis in which thousands of people are sick and dying, and millions are out of work and hurting financially?
Some churches have suggested that celebrations of Easter should be delayed until this crisis gets better. I disagree. In fact, I would say that there is no more appropriate time for us to celebrate Easter than in the face of sickness, instability, and death, because these things are the very reasons why Easter is good news worth celebrating!
In fact, this may be the one moment in all of our lives when we understand the weight of what Easter means, and the hope that it brings, more than ever.
The meaning of Easter is that the Lord of Life died in order to destroy death, and make it possible for us to be reconciled to Him and resurrected to “a better life” (Hebrews 11:35, 40).
This past Sunday (March 22, 2020) was supposed to have been our last service in the Saint Vrain Memorial Building, where White Fields Church has met since its inception, years before I became pastor.
However, because of concerns about the Coronavirus outbreak, not only are we not gathering physically out of concern about spreading the virus, but the Memorial Building is closed.
This past week, some members of our congregation were able to get in to move our things out of storage at the Memorial Building to move them to the new facility. The group also moved us out of the offices our church has been in for the last 2.5 years.
Looking at the pictures, it was a bit surreal realizing that it is the end of a season during which a lot of good ministry took place, and when I last left those places I had no idea that I wouldn’t be able to return!
This coming Sunday (March 29, 2020) was scheduled to be our first Sunday in the new building, and we were planning to kick off doing two services on Easter. Right now, it is looking unlikely that churches will even be able to gather on Easter at all.
However, I was able to go into the empty church building last Saturday and pre-record my sermon by preaching to an empty room, making this the first service in our new building… kind of.
I can’t wait for the time when we will get to gather physically again, and have a proper grand opening!
Brightly colored eggs were strewn all over Roosevelt Park this past Saturday, April 20, morning. A balloon artist, bouncy obstacles, face painting, a puppet show and a craft table of bracelets made with Cheerios were all part of the White Fields Community Church’s Easter Egg Hunt and Festival. (WFCC) Head Pastor Nick Cady of WFCC…
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25)
Yesterday, as people around the world gathered to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, terrorists attacked three churches in Sri Lanka, killing nearly 300 and injuring over 500. [source]
The irony of the situation is profound: The goal of terrorism is to incite fear by taking lives, but they carried out their attacks on the day when Christians revel in the fact that we can live without fear because of the hope that we have in eternal life.
What Jesus’ resurrection means for Christians, is that not only did Jesus die to forgive our sins, but he rose from the grave to conquer over death forever, so that we can have eternal life.
1 Corinthians 15 tells us that Jesus is the “first fruits” of those who are going to be resurrected to eternal life, and because that is true, death has lost its sting! Death will not have the final word.
As a result of this great truth, we who have this hope of eternal lives are free to live without fear. We are free to be courageous and generous, because we have nothing to lose – and the greatest gain is already ours!
Paul the Apostle put it this way: “If the dead are not raised, then we should just eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32) The idea is that, if this life is all we’ve got, then it would make sense for us to be selfish and short-sighted with the time we’ve got, since this is all we have. However, if Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, and we will too – then “to live is Christ, and to die is gain!” (Philippians 1:21)
If you have the hope of eternal life, then this life isn’t as good as it will ever get for you, rather, this life is as bad as it will ever be for you. If you know that you’ve got a thousand, million, billion years ahead of you, in which you will experience joy, security, adventure and love, then you are truly free to use the little window of time you’ve got here on Earth in the service of others, and in the service of God.
If you have the hope of eternal life, you are free to love sacrificially, and to give without holding back!
In other words: Jesus’ resurrection makes us brave, because it gives us hope.
Jesus’ disciples who saw him after his resurrection were so transformed by it, that they went from being timid and fearful to being bold, to the point where they came out of hiding and publicly proclaimed their faith, unwaveringly – even in the face of violence towards them and their families. As Paul says in Acts 13:31, they became “witnesses to the people”; rather than fearing for their lives, they boldly carried out a mission.
Our hearts break, and our prayers go out for those who are suffering from injuries, as well as for the families who were affected by this horrible act of violence. Our hearts ache as we look around and see the brokenness in the world, manifesting itself in hatred and violence. But as Christians, we must refuse to live in fear.
Instead, we set our hearts and minds all the more on the fact that we are pilgrims in this world, and our purpose here is not comfort or security. The time for comfort and security will come – fully and forever! But our time here on Earth is to be dedicated to courageously doing the will of God and carrying out His mission in the world, to bring to others the love of God and the good news of Jesus: the light of the world, who conquered death, and through whom we can have eternal life.
Many Christians are under the impression that Easter eggs and the Easter bunny – and even the word Easter itself are pagan in origin. Is that true? Where do these practices come from, and is it bad for Christians to participate in them?