Easter brings crowds to worship. Even where attendance is very small, almost every church has an attendance factor beyond the “normal” pattern for a Sunday morning.
Why do they come? Why the extraordinarily high numbers on this day? Why tens or scores or even hundreds above average?
Some people come because they want to oblige an insistent family member: “It’s Easter, and you are going to church [with me].” The matter may even come as a bribe: “If you will go to church today, I will treat the whole family to brunch.”
Some attend because of the music. If the church has a decent choir or some extra brass for that day, they come to hear the music. Somehow they know the music of the church will be at its best on Easter Day.
In a day when many believers are sporadic in their attendance, almost everyone wants to be in church on Easter. They may only attend once or twice a month throughout the year; but they make sure that Easter is the one Sundayto attend this month!
A few (and I think only a few) are “Christmas and Easter” Christians. A few such persons might even find the worship bulletin from last Easter or Christmas in their suit coat pocket!
A few attend because of a recent loss in their personal or family circle. “Where is God in all of this? How do I cope with this devastating, perhaps unexpected, loss? What word of comfort might I find in the music or the message of Easter?”
A few come with an outright fear of death and dying.
But there will always be one group in the church on this day desperately wanting to hear what the preacher has to say about Easter. Does he or she believe? Is Easter a secular holiday or the repeated proclamation of a definitive event in human history? They come saying, “Convince me, preacher. I want to know what you believe about this (seemingly) incredible story. Tell me again! What is your ‘take’ on the empty tomb narrative?”
I tried to keep this latter group uppermost in my mind as I prepared to preach Easter messages over more than four decades.
I enjoyed a few “tongue in cheek” titles for Easter messages over the years. “Victorious Secret” (“Lo, I tell you a mystery…”). “Surprise Ending”: The absolute shock to the women who visited the tomb (Mark 16). Or “Easter Presence”: The encounter between Mary and here Risen Lord in John 21:11-18. Or maybe this year, “Trump Card”: God plays the biggest and best trump card ever! Titles can be a fun “play on words.” But I trust the heart of my message was always clear. By some mysterious power of God, Jesus conquered death. Life finds its clearest meaning and destiny in the life and teaching of Jesus. He is the Way and the Truth about living and dying. Rome said “No” to Jesus. God shouted “Oh, Yes!”
God says, “My Kingdom is the only Kingdom that matters and endures No eye has seen nor has the mind conceived of what I have prepared for those who love me.”
Exactly how the event happened or the form of that resurrection is not important. The witness to the Easter Event is compelling, even overwhelming. The Roman Empire had no power over the God of history represented in Jesus. “I know he holds the future, and life is worth the living just because he lives.” (UMH #364) Life is now shown to be radically different from any human instrument or instruction.
Be an Easter presence and/or an Easter leader! Have a blessed Easter Day!
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