4/22/2014 11:00:00 AM
The theme of our local congregations’ Easter celebrations this year was “Welcome Home.” The idea was to invite people to a place that will accept you, no matter how badly you’ve messed up, because that’s (ideally) what family members do for each other.
For my Easter sermon I had my staff find a picture of Judy Garland as Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” to help show that at some point, we all want to go home – to a place of safety and acceptance. Even in the midst of the adventure of her life, Dorothy wanted nothing more than to go home. The irony, of course, is that before Dorothy left home she wasn’t all that excited about being there. She has a lot in common with the prodigal son that Jesus talked about in Luke 15, but that’s another train of thought for another day.
The Church can, and should, be home for any Christian. Some congregations may provide a better fit than others, but if we’re all children of the King, we should be able to see the family resemblance every time we enter a house of worship.
The late Nazarene pastor, music executive and author Bob Benson once remarked to a friend that he liked a new song he had heard on the radio, because it reminded him of the Church. He especially appreciated the last line of the chorus: “You want to go where everybody knows your name.”
Later, he lamented that it was a shame that it took a song about a fictional bar, the one in the television show “Cheers,” to remind him of the Church. But the fact remains that deep down, that’s what we all want: a place where we’ll be accepted. And it’s what the Church is when it’s at its best.
We do a lot to build up to Easter in the Church. That’s natural because of what Easter means to our faith – unlike every other belief system, Christianity’s central figure has conquered death. The observance of that reality ought to be important.
I hear people complain about egg hunts and bunny rabbits taking away from the premise of the holiday, and it makes me wonder if they refuse Christmas presents because it’s a day set aside to remember the birth of Jesus.
We often don’t prepare for Easter with all the detail and the anticipation in which we do Christmas, but we still make preparations. At WHC I encourage our members to fast something – television, Starbucks, sweets or something else – as a means of focusing on God’s sacrifice of His son. Many families try to schedule a gathering at which we eat too much food and, strangely, enjoy the leftovers more than the original feast. We put on our best clothes, go to church and hear the best songs the music department can put together, listen to a sermon the pastor has spent more time preparing than anything he or she has done all year – and then what?
All of a sudden, it’s just another Sunday afternoon. And Monday, if it’s possible, feels even more like Monday than normal, because all the extra stuff you’ve done over the weekend has squeezed out the time you would otherwise have had for your routine obligations, which remain to be done during the week even as you return to a routine. I can understand a desire to get back to “normal,” whatever that is, after a holiday celebration like many in the Church have just had.
There are at least two ways to think of “normal,” though. One is to have things return to the way they were before. Those that prefer this approach go from cutting something out of their lives through a fast to putting it right back into their lives, whether that’s the healthiest choice or not. The unspoken goal in that scenario is to remain unaffected by events.
The other approach is more adventurous, it seems to me. We can also return to a new normal
, informed by and affected by what has come before. In the case of a fast, maybe during our time of fasting we learn that what we thought was such a big sacrifice to make wasn’t such a big deal after all. Sometimes, if the big change occurs because of the death or serious affliction of a loved one, it’s impossible to go back to the way things were, and we have to find a new normal. And, through trial and error, we most often do exactly that. The opportunity that lies before Christians today and in the days ahead is to live in the light of the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Last Sunday we proclaimed “Risen, He’s risen/Forever glorified.” We sang those words with joy, and rightly so. Well, He’s risen today
too! We could do a lot worse than proclaim the truth of Easter even after the holiday.
- April 22, 2014