Why are we starting with the sad stuff? It’s Easter!

This Easter, we continue to practice lament, even amid our Easter celebrations. This is part of a larger goal at COS to learn the spiritual practice of lament as an important aspect of our spiritual journey, especially in times of crisis and loss.

Lament is distinct from repentance. Repentance recognizes our sin and says, “I’m sorry, God. Please forgive me.” Lament, however, simply acknowledges grief and sorrow that comes from living in this world, even apart from our particular sins. Lament brings grief and sorrow to God and allows us to ask “why?” and “how long?” In worship, we learn to place lament in the context of trust in a God who hears and loves us.

You might have noticed that we have already been fitting moments of lament into our services. We have experimented with different places in the service, depending on the season:

  • Creation season: in the confession sequence
  • Advent: in the prayers of the people
  • Lent: in the place of the Lectionary Psalm

For Easter season, we are beginning the service with lament in keeping with Luke 24, the story of the Emmaus Road. Cleopas and the unnamed disciple are traveling along, hopeless, despairing, and dejected. They have seen their master and teacher cruelly murdered by corrupt and complicit state and religious leaders. They have no idea what will happen next. In this very moment of despair, Jesus meets them and walks along with them. Jesus asks about their grief, teaches them, stays with them, breaks bread with them, and at last reveals himself to them in his risen form.

In our Easter service, we take the silhouettes of these two disciples and fill them with our own features. As we enter worship, we first acknowledge that even during this season, we have sorrow and pain. Our faithful Lord meets us within that sorrow and pain. Then, throughout the service, we hear Scripture spoken into our lives, pointing ever and always to Jesus. We encounter Jesus at the Table, our hearts burn with hope, and we leave again, eager to share what we’ve experienced with others.

You’ll also notice that one key element in the service – the prayer of confession and assurance of pardon – are omitted during this Easter season. This was a common practice in many of the early churches, and remains common in churches of the Anglican communion.

No one imagines that we haven’t sinned or participated in sinful systems during April and May! Rather, the wisdom is this: the faithful have spent the weeks of Lent confessing their sins and pondering how they might live a more holy life. When Easter comes, we set confession aside briefly, and enter into a time of extended grace. We are received as forgiven disciples by the Lord who brings us peace.