This Season of New Beginnings

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”Jesus Christ (John 20:29).
While it might not be common knowledge, the Easter season actually extends for 50 days beyond Easter to Pentecost, which will be celebrated this year on Sunday, May 23, 2021. These 50 days are referred to as “Eastertide” or a “season of Pentecost”.

In an article titled, Why is the Easter season 50 days long?” (the content of this article was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications), the article states the following:

Easter for Christians is not just one day–it’s a 50-day period. The season of Easter, or Eastertide, begins at sunset on the eve of Easter and ends on Pentecost, the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church (see Acts 2).

Easter season is more than just an extended celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. In the early church, Lent was a season for new converts to learn about the faith and prepare for baptism on Easter Sunday. The initial purpose of the 50-day Easter season was to continue the faith formation of these new Christians.

Today, this extended season gives us time to rejoice and experience what it means when we say Christ is risen. It’s the season when we remember our baptisms and how, through this sacrament, we are “incorporated into Christ’s mighty acts of salvation.” As “Easter people,” we celebrate and ponder the birth of the Church and gifts of the Spirit (Pentecost), and how we are to live as faithful disciples of Christ.

Many churches use these weeks to teach the theology of the sacraments and help people discern their spiritual gifts and callings. Congregations may have a service of commissioning laypersons into ministry as part of their Pentecost celebration. (Quote source here.)

An article titled, What is Pentecost?” by Dr. Ray Pritchard, author, speaker, and President of Keep Believing Ministries, describes the significance of Pentecost to Christianity, and it is available at this link. A brief explanation is found in an article published on May 29, 2020, titled, When is Pentecost This Year? Why Do Christians Celebrate It?” compiled and edited by the Crosswalk.com editorial staff:

Pentecost is a Christian holiday, observed on the seventh Sunday after Easter, that celebrates the blessing of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-31). The day of Pentecost is known in the Christian Church as the day on which the Spirit descended upon the apostles, and under Peter’s preaching, so many thousands were converted in Jerusalem.

Why do Christians celebrate Pentecost?

According to Ray Pritchard from Christianity.com, “Modern Christians observe Pentecost as a holiday, not to celebrate a wheat harvest, but to remember when the Holy Spirit invaded the Church in Acts 2.”

The description in Act 2 states that, after Jesus ascended into heaven, Jesus’ followers were gathered together for the Feast of Harvest (aka Pentecost), and the Holy Spirit “filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2). “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4). This unusual event drew a large crowd, and Peter stood up to speak to them about repentance and the gospel of Christ (Acts 2:14). By the end of the day that the Holy Spirit came, the Church grew by 3,000 people (Acts 2:41). This is why Christians still celebrate Pentecost… (Quote source here.)

In an article published on June 17, 2017, titled, The Grand Diamond of the Psalter (Psalm 119: 1-16),” by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, professor of World Christianity and President of Asbury Theological Seminary, he states:

The season of Pentecost has always been a season in which the church instructed new believers. So, I thought it would be helpful if over the next eight Sundays [note: this article is part of a sermon series], our Daily Text focused entirely on Psalm 119. Psalm 119 is the grand wisdom psalm of the Bible. With 176 verses, this psalm is to the rest of the psalter [Book of Psalms] what the Grand Canyon is to all other canyons. Psalm 119 is not only the longest psalm in the Bible, but also the most extensive acrostic in the psalter. Each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are called forth to offer eight verses of praise. Each of the eight verses under each of the headings begins with that letter, making it the grand acrostic of wisdom. Even most English Bibles seek to honor the exquisite construction of this psalm by retaining the name of each Hebrew letter at the heading of each of the eight verse sections.

This psalm’s intricate plan is designed to aid in memorization and thereby help train young people in the nature and content of God’s Law. Like a wise grandfather with his grandchildren at his knee, this psalm seems to gather up all the wisdom of the Scriptures and turn it into a glorious act of praise and an ever rising crescendo of instruction and catechesis which makes it one of the great treasures of the Bible. This psalm is like a precious diamond with multiple facets, and it will take us eight Sundays to complete just this one psalm!

The opening insight of Psalm 119 is that this psalm is a celebration of God’s Law. In the Hebrew world, the number seven was considered the number of perfection. So, one might expect to find seven different words for the Law. We actually find eight different Hebrew words repeated throughout the psalm. This is because it is an act of praise. Seven may be the number of perfection, but eight is perfection with a superlative. It is the addition of joy. It is like a baker’s dozen, which is 13, as an added dose of joy to the standard twelve. For the same reason, we have divided Psalm 119 into 8 separate meditations, as our own kind of superlative of praise. None of the 22 stanzas of this psalm ever contain fewer than six of the eight words, and six of the stanzas contain all eight.  Remarkably, only four of the 176 verses do not contain (in the Hebrew text) at least one of these eight words for God’s revelation.

In singing or reading through the first two stanzas of this psalm, just let the words flow over you. We will discuss the meaning of the words next week, but for now, just sense the exuberance and joy of this psalm. As Christians, we sometimes see God’s Word (one of the terms for law) as burdensome. This psalm is the great liberation from that perspective. It is his word that allows a “young man to keep his way pure” (vs. 9). Notice how he joyfully memorizes and cherishes God’s word: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (vs. 11). So, may the grand psalm of 119 transport you to that delightful place of joy. May you find yourself saying with the psalmist: “I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches” (vs. 13). The psalm is like a rare and perfectly cut diamond, and all eight of these terms become the various facets or cuts in the diamond which allow us to see its beauty and majesty. Welcome to the joyous journey of Psalm 119! (Quote source here.) [Below are the first two stanzas, “Aleph” and “Beth,” of Psalm 119 (verses 1-16)]:

Psalm 119:1-16 (NIV)

Aleph

Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the LORD.
Blessed are those who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart—
they do no wrong
but follow his ways.
You have laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.
Oh, that my ways were steadfast
in obeying your decrees!
Then I would not be put to shame
when I consider all your commands.
I will praise you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous laws.
I will obey your decrees;
do not utterly forsake me.

Beth

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, LORD;
teach me your decrees.
With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.

The rest of Dr. Tennent’s 2017 series on Psalm 119 can be read at these links:

Taking some time each day or week to read and study Psalm 119 is a great way to journey through these next few weeks leading up to Pentecost.

And here’s one last an article for this blog post that was published today, April 5, 2021, titled, 6 Prayers to Pray the Week After Easter,” by Lysa TerKeurst, speaker, author and President of Proverbs 31 Ministries. She writes:

“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told you.'” —Matthew 28:5-7 (NIV)

I don’t think Easter is quite done with me yet.

I know what glorious things this Holy Day says to the world at large.

But what does Jesus want me to know, to think about, to wrestle through at this time of year? This season of new beginnings.

So, I’m lingering here a bit longer.

I feel like the girl who wears the same outfit to school two days in a row. Easter is done now. Time to put it back in the closet. Only for me it isn’t. I want to wear it again today, tomorrow and many more tomorrows.

After all, Easter is no longer a ritual to me. It’s a revelation. A time where Jesus splits my soul along the fault line of a scar deep within: I was an unwanted child to my birth dad.

Unwanted.

But to Jesus… I was wanted so much that He gave His life for me. It feels so personal. Even though I know God so loved the world, He gave His son, it becomes very individual if we let it.

Be personal.

With Jesus.

Yes.

So, in the midst of a world putting Easter away, might we let it sit with us for just a bit more?

I keep my Bible open to the place where the angel spoke to the women at the tomb. And I tangle my thoughts around His words from Matthew 28 as six prayers emerge….

• “Do not be afraid,” – God, I hand over to You those things that make me so afraid. Resurrect the parts of my faith squelched by fear.

• “I know that you are looking for Jesus,” – God, when my soul is searching, help me know the answer to every longing can be found in You.

• “He has risen,” – God, the fact that Jesus is risen should lift my head, my heart and my attitude. Help me to live today as if I really believe this with every part of my life.

• “just as he said,” – Jesus, You keep Your promises. Help me live as though I believe that with every part of me. Help me trust You more, obey You more and resemble You more.

• “Come and see,” – Jesus, You had the angels invite the women in to see for themselves that You had risen. You invite me into these personal revelations every day. Forgive me for sometimes rushing about and forgetting to come and see for myself… You, Your Word, Your insights.

• “Then go quickly and tell his disciples,” – Jesus, I don’t want to be a secret keeper with my faith. I want to be a bold and gracious truth proclaimer. For You. With You. Because of You. Me, the unwanted girl whom You loved, redeemed and wanted.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Yes, let this miraculous Easter be personal. And prayerful. And linger a bit longer.

Dear Lord, I want to let Your Truth sink deep down into my heart and soul today. Help me stay focused on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words of Jesus from Matthew 11:28-30: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls…

For my yoke is easy . . .

And my burden . . .

Is light . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Father’s House” by Cory Asbury:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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