Last year, we introduced a series of banners to decorate our sanctuary with the colors and symbols of the various seasons of the church year. The banners rotate around our sanctuary during the course of the year, with the current season’s banner displayed prominently beside the pulpit. We have green banners to designate “Ordinary Time,” purple banners for Advent and Lent, and red banners for Pentecost and the Lord’s Supper. Starting this Sunday, you might notice that one our banners has changed colors:
The banner representing the current season of Easter, showing a cross on a purple background, now shows a cross on a white background. Why the change?
Simply put, the change has happened because I made a mistake. Originally, I ordered a purple banner for Easter so that it would match the purple decorations of Lent. I thought that purple was the “right” color for Easter. But I was wrong! White is the color of the Easter season.
But let’s back up: Easter is not just one day. Easter is a full season, lasting from Easter Sunday to Pentecost, which is seven weeks after Easter Sunday. So the Easter season really is seven weeks long. Isn’t it great that our stores celebrate the Easter season by putting all that chocolate and candy on sale for 50% off, just as the season begins?!
White is the color of the Easter season. Google and Wikipedia know that. All sorts of resources online and in print know that. Now our sanctuary knows that, too, with a white banner hanging beside the pulpit.
But why is white the color of the Easter season? What makes white so special?
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 NIV)
The contrast between red and white is stark. Removing red stains from white fabric can be quite challenging. Red is the color of blood, which reminds us of Jesus’s death on the cross. White is a color that symbolizes purity and holiness, which also reminds us of Jesus’s death on the cross, but in a different way. Red is the color of what happened at the cross; white is the color of the result of the cross.
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. (Matthew 17:1-2 NIV)
When Jesus was transfigured, his clothes turned bright white. His transfiguration was a “preview” of his glory and majesty, which only a few disciples got to see at the time. When Jesus rose from the dead, many dozens of his disciples saw him with the same glory and majesty. This is why many depictions of the resurrected Jesus have him wearing a white robe.
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. (Revelation 3:4-5 NIV)
Jesus speaks here about his followers who will remain faithful to him throughout the difficulties of their lives. They will wear white clothes, as well. Just as Jesus wore white on the day of his transfiguration, we too can wear white because Jesus lives and reigns in us. White is the best color for the Easter season because it reminds us of the greatest truth of the Christian faith, again coming from the words of Jesus:
Because I live, you also will live. (John 14:19)
I invite you to remember these things and celebrate them when you see the white banner in our sanctuary!