The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the tag “easter”

Party Beside the Empty Tomb!

Easter is gone, right? Actually Easter has just begun! The Easter Season lasts for 50 days. It is glorified in the PENT-ecost season. According to the Christian Calendar, Easter lasts until May 19th (Pentecost Sunday). But didn’t we spend ourselves bodily and spiritually this past Lord’s Day? If that’s the case, stir yourselves unto good works. The party has just begun!

We–who are liturgically minded–tend to carefully attend to the Lenten and Advent Calendar, but yet we forget that apart from the Resurrection Lent and Advent would not make any sense. After all, what are we expecting? A virgin birth to a son who would simply die at the age of 33? What are we expecting? A perpetually closed tomb? A sight for annual pilgrimages to Israel?

I am suggesting we need to stock up in our champagne bottles. Every Sunday meal needs to start with the popping of a champagne bottle. “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! POP! “Children, that’s the sound of victory!”

For every day of Easter, set aside a little gift for your little ones or your spouse. We set 100 Easter eggs aside for our two oldest children and let them open them up each day. Other traditions can be added, of course. We indulge in Easter hymnody and Psalmnody.  Easter is no time to get back to business as usual, it’s time to elevate the party spirit.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for these next 46 days:

First, for evening family readings, meditate specifically on the Resurrection account and the post-resurrection accounts. Digest every detail of the gospels, and also allow St. Paul to add his resurrection theology in I Corinthians 15.

Second, teach one another the art of hope. We live in a hopeless culture. We walk around with little enthusiasm for what God is doing in our midst. We also don’t believe that God is changing us and conforming us to the image of His son. We need to–especially in this season–to rejoice more with those who rejoice and encourage more those who weep with the hope granted to us in the Resurrection of our Messiah.

Third, invest in changing your community. Ask your pastor in what ways can you be more fruitful in your service to the congregation. Consider also your neighbors. Do you know them? If you do, how many have been in your homes for a meal or a drink, or simply to talk?

Fourth, play Easter music in your home and in the office. Here are some selections of great CDs or MP3’s.

Finally, avoid the introspective rituals that are so prevalent in our Christian culture. Do not allow doubts to overtake you. Think of your Triune baptism. Trust in Christ fervently. Allow the Covenant of Grace to shape your identity. The resurrection of Jesus was the confirmation that those in Christ are made for glory. Look to Jesus and serve Jesus by serving others. By doing so, you will not grow weary in doing well, and you will learn to party beside the empty tomb.

Christ is Risen!

Uri Brito is a pastor and a lover of good parties!

Jesus, Thief on Easter

Recently, I have seen two conflicting, yet equally helpful discussions of the use of the word “Easter” to celebrate Resurrection Sunday.

Dr. Tim LeCroy’s post argues that Easter, counter to common pronouncement, is not pagan in origin, but is a reference to the vernal equinox and the change of the sunlight in Spring, this change coming in the East. Tim also sees this as part of God’s design that the Lord should be raised at the vernal equinox, bringing the light to the world. This is more normal to the Bible than you might realize, since the Hebrew festivals are actually set according to things like moons and equinoxes…. Take a read of Tim’s work; it is high quality and worthy of a gander.

Doug Wilson’s CanonWired video takes the usual line of saying the name comes from a Germanic Fertility Goddess, and I don’t fault someone for thinking it is the same as everyone always says it is. (Tim provides good evidence to the contrary). Doug’s argument however, is that paganism is made void and we have seen the victory of Christ over this paganism. He cites Hosea 2.17. I like that Doug takes this approach, and while I favor Tim’s etymology, I know that Tim also values the reasoning that follows Doug’s initial assumption.

So I think both are helpful. And in the vein of etymology, and with the spirit of Doug’s acceptance of the word, Easter, I want to add the following note. Read more…

Bring Out Your Dead!

church graveyard, cemetery

How often do you see cemeteries? Do you know, off hand, where the closest one is? Do your children? It is a sad state of affairs when we can’t answer these questions with certainty and, if you’ll allow me to indulge in a few preliminary comments, I’ll tell you why.

One of the best ways to engage literature is to pick a work you want to be shaped by and to read it again and again. I was recently rereading G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy with that end in mind, and the following passage struck me:

“But if it comes to clear ideas and the intelligent meaning of things, then there is much more rational philosophical truth in the burial at the crossroads and the stake driven through the body…there is a meaning in burying the suicide apart.”
“….And then I remembered the stake and the crossroads, and the queer fact that Christianity had shown this weird harshness to the suicide. For Christianity had shown a wild encouragement of the martyr. Historic Christianity was accused, not entirely without reason, of carrying martyrdom and asceticism to a point, desolate and pessimistic. The early Christian martyrs talked of death with a horrible happiness. They blasphemed the beautiful duties of the body: they smelt the grave afar off like a field of flowers. All this has seemed to many the very poetry of pessimism. Yet there is the stake at the crossroads to show what Christianity thought of the pessimist.”

It struck me not because of the particular topic but of the more general implication. Regardless of your convictions about the burial of suicides, these remarks demonstrate something powerful, and something contemporary Protestantism (at least in my circles) has begun to forget—our treatment of the dead translates into a meaningful theological statement. Read more…

The History of Lenten Fasting, Part II

Facebook lent meme

This is a follow up post to The Origins of Lent.

In my previous post I argued that a 40 day preparatory period leading up to Easter is a very ancient Christian practice, as old as the Nicene Creed or the first complete articulation of the New Testament canon (4th c.). I also argued that fasting has always been a part of the Christian Church’s preparation for Easter, going at least as far back as the early third century. To make this argument I referenced several primary sources, including one well respected Christian Father, St. Athanasius of Alexandria.

The primary question that arises out of that post is, “What kind of fasting was involved in those early days?” and a consequent question is, “How should I fast during Lent?” This post is an attempt to begin to answer both of those questions.

The short answer is that these early sources do not tell us much about exactly how the fast was kept. In his second festal letter of 330 AD, St. Athanasius’ does not give any directions as to what is to be fasted from or how the fast is to be kept, only that it be kept. The reason for this seems to be that there was a great deal of local control over the nature of the fast, and that it was up to the local pastor (bishop) to set the parameters according to his own cultural situation and pastoral wisdom. Thomas J. Talley, in his book The Origins of the Liturgical Year, presents evidence that early Lenten fasting practices varied widely. By this he means that there was variation both in the number of actual fast days (for there was never a continuous 40 day fast. Sundays were always exempted and Saturdays were also in most places) and in the manner of fasting.

It seems clear that the most arduous form of fasting would be abstinence from all meat and dairy. Additionally, from the sixth century we find that monks were allowed to eat one meal a day during the fast. What this says about the laity and their practices is unclear, but it seems likely that their fast would have been less arduous. In addition there were periods of Lent were a less arduous fast was prescribed: some allowing for the eating of diary products and eggs for a portion of the fast.

Talley concludes at the end of the book that though the bulk of our detail concerning Lenten fasting comes from monastic sources, the laity still participated in the observance of Lent in some way. For the laity, Lent was primarily about penitence, a season to especially be mindful of and to repent of one’s sins. What fasting the laity observed is not clear, though it seems, as I mentioned above, that it was locally prescribed by local pastors and bishops, and that it must have been less arduous than that which was prescribed for monks.

Later in Church history Lenten practices become a bit clearer and more uniform. The practice that came into being was to take one meal a day during Lent, abstaining from meat, milk, and eggs (excluding Sundays). Yet how late this general practice came to be is not clear. As I mentioned above, most of the information we have is from monastic sources. Furthermore there were many local dispensations that kept the actual fasting from being so severe. Additionally, certain trades and people in certain conditions (ill, pregnant, young or old of age) were exempted. The fact of the matter is that with all the dispensations, Lenten fasting has always been something where a general ideal was applied to local and individual circumstances.

So we return to our original question, “What kind of fast was instituted in the early Church?” The answer is that it was locally variable and individually applicable. Pastors worked with the laity to ensure that some appropriate form of fasting or abstinence was taking place. Monks performed the most arduous fasts, but the laity surely did not follow with the same rigor.

This leads us, in closing, to the second question, which is, “How then should I fast?” The answer is that this is something best left up to individual pastors and churches to decide. Even in the Presbyterian tradition, the elders of the church have the authority to call a fast. The Westminster Confession of Faith 21-5 says that “solemn fastings,” are a part of the true religious worship of God. Furthermore, chapter 62 of the PCA’s Book of Church Order provides for individual churches, presbyteries, and the entire denomination to call for a fast. That chapter even allows for the church to keep a fast called for by civil authorities if the leaders of the church find it in keeping with the Christian faith. There is certainly nothing keeping any individual church or presbytery from calling a fast for Lent. It would be completely in accord with the constitution of our church.

In conclusion, we know that Lenten fasting is very ancient, and we know that the details of the fast have always (to greater and lesser degrees) been left to local churches. Therefore it seems that it would be good practice for our churches to consider ways in which we might begin incorporating Lenten fasting. This is one way in which we can keep step with the broader church and more fully express our unity with her. I wonder if we might heed the admonition of St. Athanasius, a Father of the Church that we hold in high regard:

Persuade them to fast; to the end that we who are in Egypt should not become a laughing-stock, as the only people who do not fast, but take our pleasure in these days.

We in Reformed circles are reticent to fast because we see it as a medieval catholic practice. Yet the historical sources show us that it is far more ancient. These same sources also show that local churches have always had the ability to set the parameters of the fast.

Therefore, let us keep the fast in order that we may keep the feast!

Dr. Timothy LeCroy is a Special Contributing Scholar to the Kuyperian Commentary and is the Pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Columbia, MO.

A third post in this series is planned that will address some common objections to Lenten fasting.

Giving Up Me for Lent?

Lent approaches (Wednesday, the 13th for those who aren’t following along) and many–but certainly not all–Christians will be deciding what to give up.

Many will follow the historic practice of the Church and give up animal products (meat, eggs, dairy, etc.) Others will follow the contemporary practice of the Church and give up something they like (chocolate, soda, alcohol, tobacco, etc.) Still others will follow a more recent, yet popular, practice of giving up something that distracts them (television, Facebook, the internet, etc.)

N.T. Wright, in one of his many good books on the Christian life (Simply Christian, maybe) mentions that Lent is a season of death, therefore we give up something. Easter follows as a season of new life and new creation, so we should take up something–something new and good.

It is not my intention to come across as smug, overly pious, or prideful–but I realize that what I am about to say is all of those things and contradicts the very thing I am intending to do–yet I hope to give readers something to consider for their own Lenten practices this year.

A friend recently shared Andrew Murray’s Humility with me. Then, I re-read C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Then, my pastor preached on humility and pride. Then, well you get the idea. Each of these books or sermons deals directly with humility and pride. It may just be that God is trying to tell me something. Thus, I’ve decided to give up myself for Lent. I don’t know if this is a legitimate thing to fast from during Lent–historically anyway–but it is my plan. From Ash Wednesday to Easter, I am giving up myself. I will strive to not tell any stories about myself, not to “out-do” anyone else. Just listen. Just ask questions about them. Just be interested in them. Just care about who they are. I’m not going to tell people how great I am, and I’m not going to tell people how despicable I am–both are cases of pride, although we often try to convince ourselves the latter is humility when it is not.

Whatever your view of Lent is, whatever your view of fasting is, I’m sure you agree that pride is a great evil for Christians and humility is a great weakness for many. Pray for me, that the Lord would have mercy. That I might give up myself for Lent.

I’d rather hope that I can ask this question without it turning into a competition to out-holy one another. So, if you are practicing Lent this year, what are you giving up?

Post Navigation