April 2, 2010 by

Perspectives on Easter


Categories: food for thought, Things I Should Probably Not Be Telling You

Today is Good Friday on the church calendar–which means, of course, that Sunday is Easter (or Resurrection Day, if you prefer). This is the time of year when we observe and celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ.

I’ve been thinking about this lately (and you know what THAT means)…mainly because I’ve been helping out a congregation with worship, which means it’s the first time in a number of years that I’ve been in an environment where Easter preparation is important. After all, lots of people attend church meetings on Easter that never do so any other time of year. It’s natural for us to want to put our best foot forward.

With that in mind, though, Easter is a great opportunity to miss the whole point, on several fronts. That is, it’s very easy to get more caught up in the what of Easter than the why. Don’t worry–this isn’t a Jesus-is-the-reason-for-the-season kind of post. 🙂 But I think when we lose perspective on things, it can become damaging rather than helpful. So just to help balance the perspectives a bit, here are some points to ponder:

  1. Jesus never mandated that we set up special holidays to observe His death and resurrection–although there’s nothing particularly wrong with doing so. This is something the church established many years after Christ’s resurrection, and there is even some confusion and controversy about whether the holiday actually has pagan roots.
  2. The only remembrance Jesus established for His disciples was actually what we now call “communion”, where during His last Passover he identified the bread and wine as His body and blood, to be observed and celebrated regularly, and which the early church probably did every week. The point? We celebrate His death and resurrection always–not merely once a year.
  3. However we observe Easter (Resurrection Day), the focus should be on Jesus, not church growth. When we simply turn it into a selling point for all the visitors who come to our meetings, we hijack its meaning. Easter, such as it is, should not be a marketing ploy to try and grow our churches. It is, however, both good and right that we should lift up Jesus and recount His story, in the genuine hope that nonbelieving visitors might encounter Him.

The combined point I’m trying to make with all three of these observations is that Easter in itself is not the most important time of year for the church–at least not in the sense of the Body of Christ–and what importance it holds for us, it should be for the right reasons. It’s far too easy to make Easter itself the important thing rather than Jesus. It’s far too easy to get so anal about all the preparations that we forget it’s supposed to be a celebration–that we’re supposed to be happy, not stressed over whether everything goes right. It’s far too easy to be focused on how many visitors will return the next week than on whether we actually honored Christ’s great sacrifice. This is what I mean by Easter containing so many opportunities to miss the point.

These days, I guess I’m more concerned with the stuff Jesus thought was important. And the fact that He established a frequent feast of celebration rather than an annual observance ought to remind us of something. His death and resurrection aren’t reserved for one big day a year–they should be lived out and celebrated in our lives all year, every year. So however you plan to observe Easter this year, let me encourage you to celebrate. Revel in the life He has given you. And when Easter is over, don’t forget to keep on celebrating and living…and remembering.

In my humble opinion, anyhow…this daily remembrance we carry in our lives is going to make a far greater impression on our neighbors than giving them a slam-bang show one Sunday a year. Just sayin’. 🙂

Musician. Composer. Recovering perfectionist. Minister-in-transition. Lover of puns. Hijacker of rock song references. Questioner of the status quo. I'm not really a rebel. Just a sincere Christ-follower with a thirst for significance that gets me into trouble. My quest has taken me over the fence of institutional Christianity. Here are some of my random thoughts along the way. Read along, join in the conversation. Just be nice.

5 Responses to Perspectives on Easter

  1. Mark (under construction)

    My thoughts also Jeff … well, I know they are actually yours but if I had to post something on the Easter topic I would be writing off the same page as you.

    Over here the "Big 3" church leaders get to speak to the nation on my behalf.

  2. A Young Woman's Heart

    Oh, I totally agree with this. In fact, I was just thinking about this today. This thought came to mind: "Why Easter Sunday, and not the other days of the year?", because it really is that way in so many congregations.

    They work extra special hard at the music/worship portion, the pastor goes crazy trying to find the most catchy words for his sermon, and the focus is lost, like you said. We get so caught up in the day, that we forget what Christ did. I want to celebrate Christ's death and resurrection every day. I hate the fact that marketing has seeped into Christ's church. It's become nothing but trying to get butts in the seats, and tithes in the plate, and attempting to do so by any means, even if that means letting a whole bunch of worldly garbage in. But that's another story, for another day.

    Thank you for posting.

  3. Eugene C. Scott

    Jeff, great point about turning such a world changing event, the resurrection, into a church growth program. God forbid that we knowingly, or even unknowingly, belittle this day that way. Ours does need to be an every day faith. Thanks for the reminder.

    But I think your first point misses the mark. There are many good, God-pleasing things we do that Jesus did not mandate. For that matter Jesus simply said a new mandate I give you: love one another.

    Also reading the Old Testament we can see that God considers holy days, festivals, and gathered times of remembering his actions in our lives as crucial to us growing in our faith. And Jesus followed those ideas by gathering at the synagogue, the Temple, and finally by turning Passover into one of the core moments of the church.

    Finally there is very good history that shows the early followers of Christ, shortly after his resurrection, moved their worship gatherings from the Jewish Shabbat, Saturday, to Sunday to remember and honor Jesus' resurrection.

    They may have seen every Sunday as a holiday celebrating Easter.

    Thanks for a good reminder about what this Easter stuff really means.

  4. Jeff McQ

    I'm more than happy to, er, share my thoughts with you. 🙂 Thanks.

    Thanks for chiming in. I share your concerns for what so much of the church has made of Easter. Even though it's not a Biblically-mandated holiday, in many ways we've even strayed far from what our predecessors intended when they appointed it. Not because of anything in particular you said, but just because it comes to mind just now…it bears mentioning that I understand why we do an annual commemoration. We can talk all day long about resurrection being an everyday celebration, but culturally we have this tendency for the everyday to become mundane. It's not necessarily a bad thing to have an annual EXTRA-SPECIAL reminder of what Jesus did, to *keep* it special. 🙂 As long as it retains that intent, I have no problem with it.

    Thanks a lot for your remarks. I probably should have made some reference to the larger context of this blog, because I say repeatedly here that just because something is extra-Biblical, that doesn't make it anti-Biblical. The reason I point out that Easter was not mandated by Jesus is to put it into perspective, and maybe to rattle the cages of religious folks who treat it like it IS a command. On the rest of it, you and I are basically saying the same thing. The early church did gather on Sundays to "break bread", but that's just my point. They "showed forth his death and resurrection" all the time, in their daily existence, not just one day a year.

    I enjoy the annual holidays, even the ones God didn't mandate–I don't think there is anything wrong with celebrating them. My passion is always to draw people near to Christ, and when our own observances start getting in the way of that, this is when I start taking issue. (In Isa. 1, God took issue with Israel over the same kinds of things, even observances He ordained.) And sadly, I've seen far more examples in my churched history of Easter being used wrongly than rightly. Let's do it–but let's do it right. KnowhutImean? 🙂

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