A few days ago we celebrated the glorious news of Easter Sunday morning. Churches around the world reverberated with the ancient words that are constantly new: “He is risen! He is risen, indeed!” Congregations enjoyed standing room only as sanctuaries overflowed, experiencing their annual, high attendance day for the year.
The liturgical calendar calls the week AFTER Easter “Low Sunday.” The origin of the title remains unclear. Historians believe the name stood in contrast to the great festival of Easter. Following the celebration of the Resurrection, churches returned to the “low” or ordinary rhythm and routine of worship.
Church pastors know better. Low attendance puts the “low” in Low Sunday!
If Easter marks the high water mark for worship, then the week AFTER Easter resembles low tide. The same pews that were packed to capacity only seven days before now have plenty of room to stretch out for a short snooze.
This year’s Low Sunday is compounded by a further inconvenience of the calendar. The Gwinnett County School System Spring Break begins on Friday, April 1. School does not resume until Monday, April 11. So the Sunday after Easter lands in the midst of the weekend when many families will leave town.
Combining Low Sunday with Spring Break forms a pastor’s worst nightmare. Some churches may even dip into the negative numbers this week! Certainly the pews will be underpopulated and the parking spots plentiful.
During the days following Easter Sunday morning, however, we will continue to celebrate the season of Easter. For forty days, the risen Lord appeared to his disciples. The reports vary in the details.
The Gospels describe the women discovering the empty tomb. Luke’s account includes the two disciples who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Paul reports that Christ first appeared to Simon Peter, then the twelve Apostles followed by more than five-hundred followers at one time.
In John’s gospel, one man missed the first Easter Eve when the Lord appeared to the disciples. “Doubting” Thomas declared his disbelief and announced he would only be convinced by touching Christ’s wounds.
On the Sunday AFTER Easter, Jesus once again appeared in the Upper Room. He confronted Thomas’ doubts and displayed his wounded hands, feet, and side. For the first time in the Gospels, the disciple proclaimed to Jesus: “My Lord and my God!”
Christ responded: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” For almost two thousand years, people have believed the Easter message by faith rather than sight. The same message proclaimed at the empty tomb continues to echo in our ears today.
I suppose it’s a good thing that Thomas decided to attend church the Sunday AFTER Easter. Just imagine what he might have missed!
On Low Sunday, we continue to celebrate the Easter good news that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!