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Fifty Days of Easter


Fifty Days of Easter

Laura Turner in Conversation with Karl Digerness

If any of you are like me, you might be confused on hearing that we're currently in a season of the church calendar called "Eastertide." Didn't Easter already happen that Sunday a few weeks back? And it did, of course, but instead of only ending the season of Lent, Easter is also the beginning of the season of Eastertide, which takes us for fifty days through a journey of celebrating the resurrection, until Pentecost. Worship Arts Director Karl Digerness had more to say about what this season is and what it can do in us.

Our Holy Week and Easter services this year included the work of more than 80 different artists--writers, musicians/singers, and visual artists. What was the thought behind using this kind of art in the service, and why is it important to encourage the arts in our congregation?
One of the most true things about art is that it helps us see--see deeper truths that are, in some ways, ineffable and difficult to put words around. Poetry and music help us deal with these huge concepts that are so difficult to explain and hold at the same time. There's a story that may or may not be true about TS Eliot reading his poem The Wasteland. At the end of the poem, the story goes, someone asks Eliot what the poem meant. Eliot waits a moment and then starts reading it all over again. You can't reduce art or the mystery of art.

The best art challenges us to look at something in a different way. It is truthful, sometimes challenging, sometimes confrontational--which is a lot of what Jesus' ministry looked like. Its aesthetic clues help to tie the seasons together--the banners, the colors churches have used for centuries to tell its stories. It's not a mistake that some of those colors are parallel - Easter and Christmas white; Advent and Lent purple. This use of art invites you to consider what the similarities are that you might not have seen earlier.

As far as art done by folks in our congregation--I love encouraging those gifts within the congregation. We are challenging artists to wrestle with how to create art; religious art, in particular. It can be scary in the same way it can be challenging and scary to figure out how to live your faith in a VC firm or other businesses. We can help and challenge artists to think about their role, their calling, their vocation.

I've always thought of Easter as a one-day experience, and then it's over. What is the season of Eastertide?
Well, you've just had this season of Lent, which is pretty intense. Forty days of introspection, preparation and waiting. And then, resurrection. Celebrating and welcoming this new reality can't be contained in just one day. Actually, every Sunday is a "mini-Easter" for the Church, but Eastertide is a 50 day season celebrating the resurrection up until Pentecost.

Orthodox Christianity has always viewed the resurrection as a factual event, a moment in time. But if you have an event of that magnitude, you need time to unpack what it means. You're celebrating an event, but also celebrating, more importantly, what it means for us now. The resurrection was not obvious. The disciples needed some time to work out what it meant. It's so counterintuitively reassuring, in a sense--Jesus making all things new, the kingdom being here and now--all these things are true, but they are also mysterious and can be difficult to see. In some ways, it's encouraging to be reminded that it's not always obvious, and sometimes we miss what's right in front of us. We need to really wrestle with what the resurrection means. Phaedra Jean Taylor, an artist who painted the beautiful work on display during Easter, wrote about this season "We see now only bright flashes of hope, flickers of what is to come. Yet this glory is very much solid."

Eastertide also, in a way, mirrors our relationship to baptism. There's a point in time at which we're baptized, but every time we see baptism, we also have a focused opportunity to remember our baptism, to ask ourselves how we are living out our calling day by day. We ask ourselves during this season what it means to have union with Christ who has risen, and we also identify with the disciples who struggle to figure out what the resurrection means for their daily lives. In his book Ancient Future Time, Robert Webber wrote "The primary metaphor for the Easter season is the church as the resurrected people living a resurrected spirituality."

What does this season leading us to?
It certainly is leading us up to Ascension Sunday and Pentecost. If there is no resurrection, there can be no ascension nor Pentecost. It also prepares us for mission--the mission is now ours, now that Christ has risen and Jesus goes to prepare a place for us and intercede on our behalf. The Holy Spirit empowers that mission. In the words of Teresa of Avila, "Christ has no body now on earth but yours." The Church is the presence of Jesus in San Francisco.

What does Eastertide mean for us in terms of our worship for this season?
We are growing into what this season means for us. Much of its richness comes from the aesthetic cues I mentioned, and we will continue to sing songs about resurrection throughout. During Lent we can learn how to lament and to be honest about our brokenness. My hope is that during Eastertide we will grow in learning how to rejoice and celebrate well. Your personality might make it easier for you to enter into lament or joy, so these seasons right up against each other can be challenging for anyone. The seasons allow for intentional spaces to wrestle with one thing at a time. Considering Christianity is going on now, which is a great opportunity to explore some of the intellectual/historical claims of Easter, especially for those considering becoming Christian. And Easter can also provoke introspection--does my life look like the resurrection happened? Is there the joy and presence that marks a life changed by the resurrection?

Artwork, Sweet the Timber, Sweet the Iron, Encaustic and Mixed Media on Wood Panels, Phaedra Jean Taylor, 2014

Read More about this commisioned art here >

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