Its Easter weekend, the biggest weekend on the Church calendar, and this year Easter has taken on an entirely . . . . different feel.
Now, I’m sure that there are some pastors who are really bummed about not having a normal Easter weekend. After all this is THE weekend when we pull out all the stops. We spruce up things around the church, there’s more bells and whistles, more pizzaz and bling, and we ramp up the wow factor. The ushers all have new batteries in their flash lights to direct people to empty seats in our auditoriums because this weekend it’s about getting butts in those seats. Offerings are bigger. And . . if we play our cards just right we might WOW everyone enough that a whole new crop of first time guests will be back next week too. Of course we’ll have to have the perfect sermon series on deck for next week so we can WOW them again, hold them. Keep them coming back . . . begging for more.
Can I make a confession? I haven’t enjoyed Easter weekend in years.
I know that sounds bad coming from a pastor, but it’s true. I’ve dreaded Easter weekend every year, for years. I love to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. But in the church world, this particular weekend stopped being about the resurrection a long time ago. Easter weekend gives US a great opportunity to be center stage, not the resurrected Christ. It gives us the perfect reason to bring in the blow ups, the petting zoos – complete with bunnies and lambs and baby chicks. We drop thousands of eggs from the sky with sick prizes in them so people will say, “WOW!!! That church is AMAZING!” Oh yeah AND . . . . “Jesus rose from the dead??? That’s pretty cool too.” We’ll do all the pizzazz and package it with trite justifications like, “We’ll do whatever it takes to get people to Jesus,” when really we’ll do whatever it takes to get people into our churches.
But things are different this year. This year things are simpler, they have to be. There’s no real place for bells & whistles and honestly, the pizzazz would be overkill. Some churches and pastors will still try to wow the masses. For them “the show” must go on. I read a prayer request just this morning on Facebook for pastors and worship leaders because Easter services online will be so challenging.
The thing is it doesn’t have to be.
Jesus doesn’t need us to spruce up the greatest story ever told. He really doesn’t need our help! He was crucified, buried, and CAME BACK TO LIFE! That’s pretty amazing in and of itself. He doesn’t need my cute little sermon illustrations, or petting zoos, or blow ups, or battery powered light shows to make it any more amazing.
Look, I’ve tried and it didn’t work. The bells & whistles. They never seemed to work for me. There was one year, we painted the back of our stage solid white and then we came along with red paint and made it look like the wall had been doused in blood. That was memorable. Our stage looked . . . interesting. But I don’t remember one person making a decision to follow Jesus that year.
There was one Easter I preached a sermon while holding a short candle until it burned right down to my fingers. That sermon illustration, like so many others, backfired on me – literally. It WAS memorable though – especially the hot wax burning my fingertips. I also never forget the fact that I never even gave an invitation that Easter Sunday for people to follow Christ. I allowed the complicated, the bells, the whistles, the pizzazz to overpower the simple message of the cross, the tomb, the resurrected Christ.
But this year . . . Easter will be different.
It will be simpler, but it also has the potential to be the most memorable Resurrection weekend that the modern church has ever experienced. We have the opportunity to fully embrace the very simple, yet very powerful story of Jesus’ resurrection. This weekend we will be reminded that because He lives, we can face tomorrow, and the tomorrows thereafter. This weekend we will look upon the Risen Christ and weep tears of joy. We will be left awed and inspired by the message of the angels that first resurrection morning – “He Is Risen!”
No batteries needed.