Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!

by Pastor Heath Howe

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!  The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia!  This celebratory phrase is an Easter tradition for many of us in the Episcopal Church.  It is as much a part of Easter morning as Merry Christmas is on December 25th.  We love to say it or even shout it. Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia!  It is important to remember that Easter is not one day but a season, one that lasts from Easter morning until Pentecost.  The gift of Easter being a season, and not only a day, is that we have time to reflect upon, live into, and celebrate the new life God has raised us into now.  Yes, Jesus was raised from the dead, and because of that we are too.  We are raised out of negative thinking, fear, jealousy, doubt, or anything else that keeps us from living as a child of God, an Easter person.

To guide you through our Easter season, I invite you to practice the following ritual which is taken and adopted from For Everything A Season; 75 Blessings for Daily Life, by the Nilsen Family.  It can be done at a shared meal with your family and friends, or it may be done on your own.  Adapt this ritual to suit your own needs.
Preparation: Place a white or gold cloth on a table.  Have each member gathered place a symbol of spring on the table.  These symbols may be gathered ahead of time on a family walk or outing, or they may be assembled by one person who has them ready for others to present.  You will also need a Bible, a journal, a blessing cup* or a begging bowl.* 
Welcome: For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.  Welcome to this season for celebrating resurrected life!
Bible Reading: Choose an Easter storiy:  Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, or John 20:1-18
Ritual Action:
Option 1
- Share or write in a journal about a time in your life when you felt particularly sad, bad, in despair.  How did God help you through those times?  Was it through belief in the certainty of resurrection and eternal life?  Who were the people who helped you?  How are you new now?  What's the Easter moment that came from this time?  Pass the blessing cup, saying, "Thank you, God, for hope and joy and for the promise of new life."
Option 2-Psalm 30:5 says, "Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning."

Share or write in a journal about yourself or someone you know who has gone through a time of suffering but found new life.  Then ask, "Are there places of despair in my own life now?"  Spend some time deep breathing.  Hold the begging bowl, asking God; "Fill me with hope that you are raising/have raised me to new life."
Option 3-for families with young children:  Notice all the symbols on the table.  Have each member share:  "I chose this item because....  This item reminds me of Easter because.... of God/Jesus because .... My favorite part of the Easter story we just heard is .... If I were in the story I would be ... .
Pass the blessing cup and say, "Thank you, God, for Easter."
Seasonal Practice: Jesus could not raise himself; He was raised from the dead by God.  Neither can we raise ourselves out of our dead places.  The Spirit of God works through others to help us.  During this Easter season, commit yourself to thanking those people who have helped you during difficult times; seek out others who might need your help.
Prayer: Pray the Lord's Prayer together, or sing Jesus Loves Me.
Final Blessing: May God raise us out of our dead places and into the joy of new life.  Amen.
*The Blessing Cup is an ancient tradition, predating the practice of Christian communion by hundreds of years. Recently, it has been reclaimed by many religious groups as a way of celebrating God's action in our lives and the importance of others to our wellbeing. Designate a special cup, fill it with water, juice, or wine, and set it on the table. During the ritual speak the words, take a sip, and pass it on to the next person.
*Begging bowl: Christians have reclaimed a practice from the Middle Ages, when monks would go out in the morning with an empty bowl, believing that God, working through other people, would put in their bowl all the food they needed for the day.  Today, we link it to the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread,"  acknowledging our dependence on the Creator for everything, and trusting that God, who loves us, will give us what you need that day. 
Choose a small bowl as your special begging bowl, and set it aside for the ritual action.