For Christians, Easter is not just one day - it's a season of 50 days, a week of weeks, derived in its length from the fifty days between Passover and Pentecost (which means fiftieth) in Judaism. Easter season begins at sunset on the eve of Easter and ends with 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 an extended celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. In the early church, Lent was a season when persons who wished to become Christians were learning how to live the way of Jesus and preparing for baptism on Easter Sunday. Christians have referred to this time of formation as "catechesis" or "echoing the way of Jesus." The original purpose of the Easter season was to continue the formation of new Christians in the faith. Christians have historically referred to this formation process as "mystagogy" or "leading people into the mysteries."
Today, this extended season gives us time to rejoice and experience what we mean when we say Christ is risen and that we, as the church, are the body of the Risen Lord. It’s a season for focusing on the core doctrines and mysteries of the faith and for preparing for the ministries the Spirit has empowered us to undertake in Jesus’ name.
Many churches use these weeks to teach the theology of the sacraments and help people discern their spiritual gifts and callings. Congregations may do this both through small group formation and as part of public worship. Ecumenical resources for both have been developed by the North American Association for the Catechumenate, also known as Journey to Baptismal Living, supported through the worship office of Discipleship Ministries. The season may culminate with a service of commissioning laypersons into ministry as part of the Pentecost celebration.
The season after Pentecost begins with Trinity Sunday and concludes with Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday. The purpose of this season is to support our common work of using the gifts we have been given in the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Because contexts for ministry can vary widely, the lectionary readings were chosen to permit more flexibility during this season. The three readings are not related to each other. Pastors and worship planners can create series that follow any one of the three different streams of texts (Old Testament, Epistle, or Gospel), whichever seems to be speaking into the missional context of the local church the best.
This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.