In the smash-hit musical Hamilton, the song “The Room Where It Happens” describes a closed-door meeting that took place among Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. Some of you are humming along even as you read this. It’s one of the many catchy tunes in the show. Last weekend, on the Sunday after Easter, “The Room Where It Happens” was also the title of my sermon. Except that’s not quite accurate. The part about that being my title is correct, but technically there is no such thing as the Sunday after Easter since every Sunday is Easter in a way. Let me explain with a contrasting analogy. If your birthday happened to fall on April 9 this year which was Easter Sunday, when the Monday after rolled around, your birthday was over. Tuesday, still over. But that’s not how Easter works on the Christian calendar.
Easter is the end of Lent, yes, but more accurately it is the beginning of a season known as Eastertide, fifty days leading up to Pentecost. You will notice that Target and Hallmark do not observe Eastertide. But it’s different in the rhythms of the church. Eastertide means the resurrection of Jesus gets celebrated roughly 1/7 of the year and precisely 1/7 of each week year around. In fact, the idea that every Sunday is Easter is so ingrained into the rhythms of Christian worship that the six Sundays of Lent don’t even count toward the 40-day tally.
Thomas Long who was one of my mentors once wrote an article in which he asked, “If you’re in a Chinese restaurant and the placemat notes this is the year of the rabbit, who cares? Answer: the Chinese.” He was making a point about the Christian calendar. Who cares if every Sunday is Easter, even this coming weekend? Christians do. In my sermon last Sunday, we read from John’s Gospel, the story of the resurrected Jesus showing up, not once but twice (John 20:19-29). The first time one of them wasn’t there, wasn’t in the room where it happened. So, Jesus appears yet again. And as the Gospel writer concludes that second appearance, Jesus declares, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” That was a powerful word for John’s congregation some seventy years after the time of Jesus.
It’s a powerful word for our congregation all these centuries later. We weren’t in the room where Jesus appeared. And yet in some ways we were. You might think of it as the quantum theory of spirituality, two places and two different eras simultaneously. Some Sundays we show up, some Sundays we miss, we aren’t in the room where it happens. But as the Gospel stories remind us, Jesus shows up every Sunday, raising us up as well.
When I spoke to the Pastors’ Class earlier this spring, my topic was “the Church.” We wrestled with what it means to be church. I picked two words as central to my presentation, gathered and scattered. On Sundays, in the name of the risen Christ, we gather to worship and be renewed. That’s what we do in the room where it happens. And it matters if you are there or not. Since this coming Sunday is yet again the season of Easter, I hope to see you there.
P.S. When worship is over, we scatter to serve in the name of God. Which means we go forth into “the world where it happens!”