As my colleague has noted in the Worship Notes for this season, Eastertide is traditionally associated with a 50-day period of mystagogical catechesis—that is, a 50-day period for instructing the newly baptized members of the church about their new identity as members of the body of Christ. Mystagogy is initiation into that which is not yet fully revealed. It is instruction in the “mysteries” of Christian faith and identity.
Maybe we don’t always think of worship as a classroom, but perhaps we should! In the world of academic liturgy, Christian public worship is considered to be the primary source for theological encounter. In other words, the first place we learn what it means to be a Christian is through participating in worship. Worship is thus formational, in that much of what we learn about Christian discipleship comes through the rituals of worship. We pray the Lord’s Prayer and we learn that God is in heaven and God’s name is to be hallowed. We learn that “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so!” We also learn that Jesus doesn’t just love us, but that he “loves all the little children of the world.” We learn that God is in three persons, a blessed trinity. We learn that we encounter Christ in the waters of baptism and around the table of the Lord.
We also learn from what the preacher says in his or her sermon. The period of Eastertide is a time when preaching has historically been directed toward teaching what it means to be baptized members of the church. As such, the lectionary texts associated with this season all lend themselves to some sort of insight into our new identities as members of the resurrected body of Christ. Christ is risen! He is alive and well and his Spirit dwells within his people. Each week during this season we read a passage from Acts, one from Revelation, and a gospel lesson from John.
Eastertide is an excellent period in which to develop a sermon series out of readings by focusing on one of the books and preaching on the readings from that book through the entire season. As such, the notes each week will all connect to the suggested theme for the series.
Eastertide Sermon Series from Acts: Signs and Wonders!
Preaching about resurrection and performing signs and wonders leads to life-altering, transformational things taking place in the book of Acts: persecution in some cases, wondrous belief in others. Healing, conversion and baptism, miracles, signs and wonders—Acts has it all! The readings from Acts during this season all give testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit to convert people to Christian discipleship. Prepare for the series by reading through all five of the lectionary texts from the book of Acts and begin to talk with your members about these stories. As you consider the witness in scripture ask yourself and others: What kinds of transformational things have happened in your life that led you to be baptized into the church of Jesus Christ? Did anyone from your community experience persecution as a result of his or her conversion to Christian faith? In the global context of today’s world, choosing to follow Jesus Christ comes at great risk and cost in some places. What stories can we tell that testify to the cost of discipleship? Has anyone had an experience or a vision that changed his or her entire perspective on the world? Has anyone experienced a miraculous healing? Has anyone been saved by the power of prayer? All of these experiences occur in the readings for Eastertide this year!
Eastertide Sermon Series from Revelation: Kingdom Dwellers
This series on Revelation is intended to lead people to approach the Revelation of John as a vision of a new heaven and a new earth to be realized in this life as well as in the life to come. The focus of the series will be on living as members of the kingdom of Heaven, which John portrays as a place of inclusivity, hope, and celebration. This vision of the kingdom is global and multi-cultural, a place where all are welcome at the table, where all have enough to eat and drink, and where all are healed from the oppressions of life. Through the power of the Holy Spirit the resurrected Christ is with us, in our midst.
Eastertide Sermon Series from John: Seeing is Believing
The first three texts are post-resurrection encounters with the risen Christ. How do we encounter the resurrected Christ? How are we convinced of his resurrection? Later in the season, the texts have to do with having a new identity in Christ—we know him and recognize him as messiah; we love one another and, by this, others see Christ in us; we keep his words, bear witness, and have assurance; all that was in him is now in us.