Pastor’s Perspective – April 2023
I remember when Easter was the second most popular holiday in America. We celebrated Christmas and Easter. Even the most nominal Christian, and they counted in the millions, would show up for Christmas and Easter worship services. In today’s world, Easter has been supplanted by other holidays and celebrations. Americans spend far more money on Halloween, than they do on Easter.
But before you think this is going to be an attack on our society for abandoning the Christian heritage of the United States. Let me make it clear that I’m going in a completely different direction. It should not shock anyone when Easter is maligned and ignored. The marginalization of Easter celebrations by the powerful is the historical norm and the biblical expectation.
On the original Easter Sunday, only a few people knew what had occurred, and of those few who knew, only a few celebrated. While the news of the empty tomb surrounded Jerusalem, it wasn’t considered good news by a large majority of the people.
The empty tomb was considered dangerous to the Jewish leadership. It was dangerous to the power and authority of Rome. While it was the fulfillment of the promise of God to those who followed Jesus, at the time of the resurrection, those who followed Jesus were in the clear minority. Those who believed that Jesus would rise from the dead, numbered, precisely… none. Zero.
When the people of God awoke that morning, they experienced the power of God in a way that exceeded their expectations and dreams. This experience of the resurrection of Jesus not only changed their lives, but it also, eventually, changed the world. The whole thing came as a total surprise. There are some things for which you just cannot plan.
Easter isn’t just a holiday; it is a declaration of resurrection. Without resurrection power there is no power in Easter.
Easter is about light emerging from the darkness. It is about life emerging from death. Easter is a surprisingly good story that you are hearing for the first time. Easter occurs when you share your faith with people who either don’t know the story, don’t believe the story, or don’t understand what the story means.
When I was growing up, everyone celebrated Easter, but no one knew its resurrection power. Easter was a time for new dresses and snappy clothes. It was a time in which good church families got their springtime seasonal (and always color coordinated) family picture. Easter was about eggs and bunnies. Easter baskets filled with that green grass that gets into your carpeting for the next six months. Easter was a celebration with (and often) without the resurrection of Jesus.
Today, Easter is as it should be. Good news to a pagan world. Good news to a world that’s asleep as to what God is doing. Good news to a world that desperately needs to see new life. Good news for the poor and for the broken. Good news for those who are experiencing war and natural disasters. Good news for those who are experiencing death and grief and hopelessness.
Easter is arriving at the perfect time. A time in which the world is in chaos, a time in which no one is looking for resurrection, a time in which there is no trust in leadership. A time in which governments seem to rule without love for their people. A time in which disease and famine blanket our world in gloom and darkness.
We live in a world that is familiar with the Cross. They experience the devastation of crime, poverty, abuse, civil unrest, and government endorsed violence. No one is surprised by the Cross in today’s world. They have grown to expect it. Their story ends in grief and loss and one more troublemaker removed from circulation.
This is the world for whom Jesus died. A world familiar with death. But the hope of the Gospel, the love of Christ, the grace that is poured out in his blood surprisingly erupts from the tomb. It moves stones and shakes our foundations. Jesus rises from death, and the shock of his living will change your life. It has changed my life. It will change the lives of our neighbors and family members and friends. But they don’t know it yet. They can’t until we bring them the message of new life in Jesus.
But here is the good news within the good news. It doesn’t take fancy decorations, extravagant commercials, and elegant sermons to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. On the first Easter Sunday morning only one person saw Jesus. One solitary woman. But soon the whole church heard the news, saw the empty tomb, and believed. Soon they would see the risen Jesus. They would touch his side and eat with him by the shore of the sea. Soon the world would be shaken by the message of a group of ragamuffins from the wrong side of town with a crazy message of God’s love and resurrection power.
Easter is coming. More importantly Jesus is here! His body walks the earth as the Church, led by the Holy Spirit, and sharing the Good News. Let’s surprise the world again. Let’s tell the old story in our own simple way and declare the Good News that Jesus Christ is risen!
It’ll be a surprise to most of the world. And that’s good. Because God’s love never ceases to amaze me.