Lilly. Image by Ross Burton by via Flickr, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Maybe we should pay for the high school trumpet player’s music lessons so we can keep the trumpet sounding for the great fifty days of Easter. I learned in seminary worship class that the energy and power of Easter Sunday is really supposed to keep going for the whole season. Seven Sundays of feasting on the word and the sacraments. Seven Sundays of shouting Alleluia. Seven Sundays of grand music and flowers. Seven Sundays of extraordinary worship. Seven Sundays of preaching as if it were Easter morning. Seven Sundays of celebration. For the Easter season, the metaphor turns literal: pull out all the stops!
But, seriously, who can pull this off? None of the Sundays of Easter quite equate to Easter morning. The musicians are already moving into the summer. The programming is winding down. Here in Minnesota, the weather turns into spring and people are drawn outdoors. The energy of the Easter season seems like it ebbs until there’s just a dribble of Alleluia. We muster our strength for one more shot at glory on Pentecost, it’s fiery red and vivid imagery giving us one more surge of energy. Then, finally … finally … it’s the green season.
I’ve wondered lately if the opposite of Lent’s fasting should really be fifty days of “feasting.” Forty days of fasting is probably good for us. Fifty days of feasting is just irresponsible, especially in a culture of such obscene extravagance. We don’t need a liturgical and homiletical practice of more and more and more as a sign that Christ is alive. As preachers, we probably don’t need more pressure for every sermon to be the Easter sermon. If passion is equated with the high energy of the festival part of the liturgical year, we’re all in trouble.
Years ago, I ordered Thich Nhat Hanh’s book “Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life.” I ordered it because I was attracted to the title. Savor. It seemed a better bookend to fasting than does feasting. Instead of feasting, we savor. Turns out it was a book applying Buddhist principles to weight loss. He suggests that the key to losing weight is learning to savor our food. Perhaps, the spiritual discipline for Christians in America isn’t feasting; it’s savoring.
For the fifty days of Easter, we savor life. We actually taste the food from the altar; smell the wine. We notice the changes in light and air. We smell the few flowers that are left from Easter morning. We feel the water in our hand when we baptize; the oil on our thumb as we mark the sign of the cross. We appreciate the work of our musicians, without all the drama of Easter morning; the regular ways they lead us in song. We take in the poetry of the opening hymn rather than mindlessly singing along because something next is already drawing our attention.
As I consider how to keep the passion in preaching after Easter, perhaps the answer is about savoring the process. Can I find renewed attention to my own reading of the word? Can I frame the study, even that awful moment of sitting down to start writing, as something that I savor in my week? Rather than see the sermon as a product that must be produced, can I savor the moments of the journey? Can I find the way to appreciate this preaching task as the true gift that it is? God has called us into this work, so it must be something, indeed, to savor, to enjoy, to treasure.
Are there parts of your sermon preparation process that you dread? That you might be able to see in a new way? What would it take for you to savor each step, connecting all the love and power of the Easter season to this ordinary, extra-ordinary, moment of bringing simple words and ideas to life?
Bradley Schmeling's bimonthly Working Preacher column, "Designing the Mystery," looks at how to plan worship and preaching that connects with the liturgy.