The department stores and supermarkets are always ready for Easter. I think once the Christmas stuff comes down, the Easter stuff goes up. There’s over-priced, over-packaged, hollow chocolate as far as the eye can see. I usually wait for the post-Easter sales and reductions on the broken eggs and rabbits. Churches don’t really need to advertise Easter because the shops do it for them!
But it does worry me that our shops are so focused on Easter, while many of our churches don’t seem to give it a lot of thought. We know it’s coming but we still seem to be ill-prepared and caught off guard when it arrives. The fact of the matter is that Easter is one of two occasions on the calendar when many people will visit church. I’m pleased that many take this step because I want them to hear and grasp why the Easter events are so absolutely crucial for all who follow Jesus.
Easter is a time where we remember a Galilean man of the first century who was executed by crucifixion under the Roman regime. It’s strange to celebrate this event two millennia later and stranger still to call it Good Friday. But this is the event that mends the broken relationship between God and us. That’s a whole lot better than good. And Easter Sunday demonstrates that this man is no longer dead. The empty tomb and the appearances of Jesus bear testimony to the efficacy of his sacrifice on the cross for us, and the fulfilment of his promises to die and rise again. Jesus is the risen Son of God, and we’re called to value him, turn to him, trust in him, honour him, and live for him. Resurrection beyond death is the hope of those who follow Jesus. Jesus’ death and resurrection has made this possible.
These are events of history that I’m keen for people to notice. There’s a fairly good chance they’ll get mentioned in churches over Easter (though no guarantee in some churches with little regard for the Bible) so I’d love my neighbours, workmates, teammates, relatives, occasional church-going mates, and anyone else to come along.
And if they’re going to be guests at our churches, then I want our churches to be ready. In the same way we prepare for guests at home – light up the barbie, organise food and drinks, welcome people, and seek to provide a good time – I want to prepare at church. I want people to feel especially welcome. I’d like them to feel comfortable with what’s going on. I’d love them to find us friendly, helpful and generous. I want the message of Easter to be so clear it can be repeated afterwards by one and all. I’m keen for people to get a window into how important it is, how much it means to people (like me) today. I’d like them to understand how they could find out more about Jesus, if they wanted to. And I’d love them to be pleasantly surprised about church, and want to come again… soon.
All this assumes people know it’s on, what’s happening, when and where to go. It requires advertising of some sort and people inviting others to join us. It would help if we could overcome a perception of ‘same old same old’ and ‘why would I bother coming cos I know what they’re going to do and say?’ Families would probably appreciate knowing what happens for kids and youth at church. We might want to check whether church is easy to find, whether their are clear signs directing the way. I reckon we should be offering top class refreshments to make it worth sticking around afterwards. And why not think about a gift that people could take home with them?
If you follow Jesus, let me ask have you and your church worked out what you’re doing at Easter yet? Now would be a good time to start if you haven’t already. Some churches have a season before Easter called Lent, so they’re probably ahead of the game. Our church doesn’t make much of lent, so we need to learn from the shops and get our act together.
If you don’t follow Jesus, but if you’re open-minded about Christianity and talking about God, then let me encourage you to check things out this Easter. If you know a Christian and you’re thinking of visiting their church, then I recommend you letting them know you want to get to the heart of message and not be distracted by religious fluff. Just saying!
And by the way, you probably shouldn’t buy me any Easter eggs. I’m supposed to be losing weight, lowering my blood-sugar levels, and reducing my blood pressure. Not fair!