[Editor’s note: This was adapted from a 2019 post.]
And now it begins. After forty days of fasting, after the harrowing darkness of Good Friday, after the long silence of Holy Saturday, after the dawn of Easter like a slow explosion of light over the greening hills of the Northern Hemisphere, we move into the joy of Eastertide. As much as I love that it all leads to Resurrection Sunday, I think my favorite part of the whole drama is today: Easter Monday.
I’m writing this in the Chapter House, having just cleaned up the property after 100 guests for yesterday’s Easter Feast at the Warren. Nobody’s coming over. No parties. The bluebirds seem relieved that there aren’t kids traipsing around the pasture and poking their heads into the box where the babies are growing, and it’s business as usual again for the bright red cardinal pecking around the yarrow by the front door. I woke to a downy woodpecker grazing the trunk of the ash tree outside my window, and spotted a house finch a few minutes later. A big squirrel bounded through the grass between the white oak and the edge of the wood, furtively, as if he’s heard rumor of my pellet gun and my fierce defense of apples. (I planted apple trees ten years ago and have only eaten one apple to date, thanks to the squirrels’ mad habit of nibbling them and tossing them half-eaten to the ground before they’re ripe.) The Warren feels happy and profoundly peaceful, and I think it’s because of all the fuss the church calendar has caused for the last forty days.
Disclaimer: I didn’t grow up in a church that paid much attention to the church calendar. I had a vague idea that Lent was a thing because of my one Catholic friend, but other than that I had no idea how rich and helpful it could be to move through the story of the Gospel over the course of a year. The irony, whenever I’ve heard any pushback on observing the church calendar, is that I don’t know a single Christian who doesn’t celebrate Christmas and Easter—and those same people look forward to the rhythm those events make of the years as they pass. So yeah, they follow at least a portion of the Christian year whether they think of it that way or not. It was just a few years ago that I first began observing Lent, and it wasn’t long after that when I realized Easter is more than just a day. It’s a season.
Eastertide lasts fifty days. I read somewhere that the whole season of Easter is called “the Great Day of the Lord.” There’s this intensely glorious ramp up to Easter Sunday, starting with Ash Wednesday. Lent moves slowly, like a funeral procession, toward Holy Week, and if you’re fasting from something you probably find yourself looking forward to Easter with a measure of desperation. When Palm Sunday arrives, you know things are about to get serious. Holy Week can be exhausting, emotionally and physically. Not only are you on the final stretch that leads to the darkest day in history—there are (if you’re up for it) communion services at noon every day, there’s a Tenebrae service on Wednesday, a Maundy Thursday service, a Good Friday service, the agonizing wait of Holy Saturday, and then—then!—Easter. The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. At our house, we party. I cry happy tears all morning. Church is bright and joyful. Then we come home and eat piles of food and laugh and revel in the victory of Christ. But it’s not over.
I feel in my chest a loosening of tension, a relief that the grieving of Lent is past, the hard-fought self-discipline is behind me, and I can enter the days of work and rest with a subtly euphoric freedom from the thistle and thorn that infests the ground. Andrew Peterson
Then, you see, it’s Easter Monday. It’s just beginning. Now we get a glimpse of the New Creation, because now we discover the “now what?” We go back to work, life resumes its usual routine, yes, but with the massive difference that now we live in that Great Day of the Lord for fifty days, a fitting foretaste of what’s coming to us after Christ’s return. I walked the property this morning and saw in the blackberry blossoms and green strawberries a fullness of time that feels less like the end of a story than the beginning of one. C. S. Lewis wrote in the final scene of the Narnia chronicles, “Now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” That’s what Easter Monday feels like to me: the beginning of a season that shouts, “He’s making all things new!” Keep your eyes peeled, because the waves of that distant shore sometimes wash over the hills of Tennessee with great glad joy. I feel in my chest a loosening of tension, a relief that the grieving of Lent is past, the hard-fought self-discipline is behind me, and I can enter the days of work and rest with a subtly euphoric freedom from the thistle and thorn that infests the ground. I’m still working in the fields, but for now it’s with gladness and not groaning.
I know it won’t last. Creation still awaits her king. But moving through the story this way piques my yearning for the New Jerusalem like nothing else, and I’m happy to join with Christians all over the world who hold fast to the hope of the resurrection by truly celebrating it not just on Easter Sunday but on Easter Monday and for the next forty-nine days too. That’s why we’re doing the show tonight in Nashville, and why the Resurrection Letters tour was born.
I usually don’t share my setlists because I like for there to be a bit of mystery to a concert, but it felt right to let you in on what these shows have looked like. (We’ve even posted playlists on iTunes and Spotify.) We open the second half with “Hosanna,” a Palm Sunday song. Then I explain to the audience that we’ll walk through the crucifixion by playing all the songs from Resurrection Letters: Prologue:
“Last Words” (the seven things the Gospels tell us that Jesus said on the cross)
“Well Done, Good and Faithful” (which incorporates Isaac Watts’s setting of Psalm 22, the “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” psalm)
“Always Good” (a lament)
“God Rested” (about Jesus’s interment in the tomb)
After each of these songs we blow out a candle and the stage lights darken. There’s no applause after each song. After the last candle is extinguished the room is plunged into darkness and silence is kept for a few minutes. It’s a time to enter the tomb and to feel the weight of Christ’s death.
Then, a candle is relit. Brandon drums the opening of “His Heart Beats,” and the lights are back as we proclaim, “His heart beats, his blood begins to flow, waking up what was dead a moment ago.” At this point, at every show on the tour, the crowd bursts into applause. Most nights they leap to their feet. We can barely sing for the joy in our hearts. As I told someone yesterday, “It’s the perfect story.”
After that we move through a series of songs about the resurrection and the New Creation:
“Don’t You Want to Thank Someone”
“I’ve Seen Too Much”
“The Good Confession”
“Is He Worthy?”
“All Things Together”
“All Things New”
Now that it’s Easter Monday, and we’re living in this foretaste of the Great Day of the Lord, our hearts will be on fire tonight at the Ryman Auditorium as we give thanks to Jesus for who he is, what he’s done, and what he’s going to do. I hope you can tune in and celebrate with us.
So from now until May 23rd, I wish you a happy Eastertide. The Kingdom is coming and the Kingdom is here.