We are born with the need to tell and to hear stories. They provide insights and help us to understand the world and to connect with others.
As we share our stories with family and friends, we share our experiences and strengthen our intimacy with one another by evoking those emotional memories. In the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly uses parables to share key ideas with his followers reinforcing the importance of the story for understanding and connectivity.
The recent passion and Easter stories are such focal points that sometimes we can miss the importance of the Eastertide season.
The passion and resurrection of Christ are the pivotal plot points for all Christians as we mourn the death of Christ and celebrate the victory of the resurrection. This narrative presents the ultimate struggle between life and death, good and evil.
We share the deep despair of the apostles at the crucifixion and the jubilation and renewed hope of the resurrection. During Holy Week, church life centers around Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the culmination of our joy on Easter morning.
In most stories, after the final climax, there is falling action and the denouement or “untying the knot.” At this point, I often find myself skimming the page as final points are explained more fully. However, while much less exciting, this part of the story often provides clarity and answers lingering questions.
For the Christian faith tradition, the Eastertide seems like such a period. We know that Christ is risen, but the disciples still have questions about death and their roles in establishing the new kingdom.
The falling action doesn’t begin with a grand proclamation from heaven of the risen Jesus. Instead, the message comes from the women who in turn share the news with others.
Jesus then appears in various settings as they further convey the good news. This communal growth is further highlighted in Jesus’ appearance during meals as a sign of communion with him and one another and the bond of the Last Supper that cannot be broken.
This communion provides comfort as they wait together between the Ascension and Pentecost, but it also shows that Jesus’ followers will create a great community that will one day span the globe.
Also, in this time, the disciples find redemption. At the Sea of Tiberias, the disciples have returned to their old life of fishing, but they are unsuccessful. Jesus appears on the shore and instructs them to fish on the other side of the boat where they catch a large haul. On shore, Peter is given the chance to reaffirm his love three times, redeeming each of his denials.
In the Garden before his betrayal, Jesus asks his disciples to watch and pray with him, but they cannot stay awake. Yet, in Acts, these same disciples along with the women are able to “continue in prayer and supplication” for days while waiting for Pentecost (Acts 1:14).
Again, this demonstrates the inclusion of this communion and its redemptive power to bring us into the two commandments of loving God and our neighbor.
Often after the excitement of the climax, we, like the disciples, want to rush the denouement. Our culture doesn’t value waiting. Reflection, prayer, community and redemption seem mundane. We are ready to move on to the next story and the action of building the new kingdom. Yet, God rested and reflected on the goodness of creation.
While Pentecost starts a new story arc for the disciples in sharing the good news, I wonder, would Peter have felt worthy of this ministry without the redemption of the denouement? Would the disciples have had the strength to remain steadfast without their strong community?
This part of the story reminds us, as Christians, that stopping to reflect isn’t just allowed but vital to our spiritual walk.
Our denouements may not fall during Eastertide, but pausing to reflect and to build community during this time can help us to recognize the power of waiting on God and bringing God our questions even when we just want to move on to the story.