By Mahogany S. Thomas
Eastertide is fifty days between Easter Sunday and the day we celebrate Pentecost. During this period, Christians bask in the Spirit of the Resurrection, liturgically waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church as we know it today. Whether Easter Sunday is early or late on the calendar year, the length of Eastertide remains the same. Pentecost is coming, and we have fifty days to bask in the Resurrected One until we get there.
However, even with a set number of fifty days, the impact of Eastertide varies from year to year. This year, many of us experienced late April snow and an abundance of cloudy days seemingly relentless during our Eastertide season. Some of us are fully vaccinated and boosted yet experienced new Covid cases in our season of Eastertide. While others are still attempting the home and work balance which remains desperately far from the remnants of equilibrium permeating our Eastertide experience.
Our collective Eastertide season is seemingly plagued by exhaustion. And as good as it felt for many of our churches to dwell together in our physical sanctuaries this Easter, the spiritual ecstasy was not enough to erase our fatigue. The clergy are tired. Our congregants are tired. Health care workers are tired. Parents are tired. Cashiers are tired. Therapists are tired. Students are tired. Accountants are tired. Educators are tired. Custodians are tired. Front-line workers are tired. Remote employees are tired. Our weariness is pervasive, even in the time of Resurrection, making it hard to differentiate these fifty days from others.
The list could go on and on, naming the simple truth that we are tired—I am a pastor, and I am tired—making it hard to bask in the Resurrection. Seemingly, these fifty days blur into the physical weariness of our bodies. Therefore, even in a liturgical season birthed from new life, we cannot always see the Resurrection. Our volunteers are serving from their last reserve, and our lay leaders are experiencing agonizing burn-out. People are resigning from their jobs and ministries in droves, and our communities are desperately ready for a change. Yet, even with this truth, in the Spirit of Resurrection, what does it look like to draw closer by replenishing our weary souls? Sure, it is Eastertide, but do we have to be fully well and in the presence of new life to experience the Resurrection?
Recently, I gathered at a neighbor’s home to celebrate Eastertide and our experiences of the Resurrection over dinner. We were a small group of clergy, teachers, activists, nonprofit leaders, and politicians with differing religious identities. Once we put my neighbor’s toddler to bed, we all sat in a circle following baby bedtime to share our Resurrection stories. Celebrating our stories with toasts of carrots, milk, tea, and sparkling grape juice, we were all wrestling with the prompt: “Where are you experiencing Resurrection?” When it became my turn to offer a toast by answering the question, all I could say was my truth. There was no eloquent speech or profound instance of Resurrection. Instead, my weary soul toasted to this: “I’m not my best self right now, and yet I do not have to be fully well to experience Resurrection.”
Beloved, Eastertide may be full of exhaustion and disappointment; however, we do not have to be fully well to experience Resurrection. We only need to be present. Present to ourselves, to our faith, and even to one another. We must be present to our authenticity. And perhaps when we are present, together we can give what we have in our presence to create more space for others, to be authentically true to who we are.
Eastertide attests to a communal Resurrection involving grieving women arriving at an empty tomb who may not have been their best selves. But they were their authentic selves, and authenticity made way for sharing the Resurrection. As we witnessed in the Gospel accounts, seeing the Resurrected One does not erase disappointment, and momentary surprise does not evade what we have been through. There are fifty days between Easter and Pentecost, and the most authentic version of Eastertide we can experience is one that is true to our authentic selves.
So, can our congregations create places of rest so our clergy can be authentic? Can our human resource departments add additional leave so our front-line workers can be authentic? Can our educational system provide more wellness days so our educators can be authentic? Can our weary souls be more honest so that humanity can be authentic?
This is Eastertide. We may have an abundance of clouds, but we can experience the Resurrection. We may be recovering in our bodies, but we will see the Resurrection. And yes, we may be exhausted, but we will know the Resurrection. We do not have to be fully well to experience Resurrection. Instead, we must be fully ourselves, and together we will bask in Eastertide, witnessing the Resurrection.
This is Eastertide: creating a just, more equitable world rooted in our authenticity and allowing truth to realign us toward healing.
Rev. Mahogany S. Thomas is a native of Columbia, Missouri, and an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ (UCC). She currently serves as the Executive Minister of Peoples Congregational UCC in Washington, D.C. She received her Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and her passions explore the intersections of marginalized identities, womanist theology, and preaching.