This is a question that I get asked every year, from those inside and outside of the church that I pastor. “What are we doing for Easter?” I always want to reply, “I was thinking we would worship the risen Lord. It seems appropriate on this day.”
But what people really want to know is, “What kind of fireworks are we going to be setting off?” “Are we giving away a car?” “Are we paying people 10 dollars to come to our service?” “Is anyone going to be rolling in with a tank?” Or simply fill in the blank with any gimmicky attempt that you’ve heard churches try to get people in the doors since apparently a risen Savior and new life just isn’t drawing people anymore.
And unfortunately as a pastor, you FEEL this kind of pressure. I’d like to be able to prepare a sermon like I normally do, with prayer and study and reflection. But you can’t help but feel the pressure (possibly imagined) that people are expecting something BIG, even in your sermon. And so there’s added stress to write a GREAT sermon. The biggest problem is, I’m not the one who decides which sermons are “good” and which sermons aren’t!
Typically, most of the ones I think turned out mediocre, God uses in a powerful way. Dallas Willard says that the most important thing that happens in a sermon is what God does with the words after they leave your lips and before they reach the listeners ears. I think that’s a powerful thought and makes “trying harder” on a sermon because it’s Easter seem kind of silly.
I like to follow up the question “What are we doing for Easter?” with, “What would you like to see us do?” The answer is always the same, “Uh, i don’t know.”
The impulse that that Easter service should be special is natural seeing that it is the biggest redemptive event in the Christian story. I understand that. But HOW should it be special? Should we have lots of “special” music? Should we have videos and laser light shows? What do people want? I really don’t know.
But what I want to suggest is that if you want the Easter service to be special, come ready and prepared to worship the God who gave his life for you and then conquered death so that we may have new life. If you’ve participated in dying to yourself during Lent for the past 40 days and come prepared to engage in worship with your entire self as you “come to life to the reality of God”, you can expect a special Easter service.
In light of that, I am rejecting the outside and imagined pressure to do something BIG. Because honestly, until I can think of how I can do something bigger than what Jesus did on Easter, any attempt to do something BIG is going to look pretty pathetic by comparison.