By Mark A. Taylor
Churches and church leaders around the world are breathing a collective sigh of relief this week. Easter is over.
All the hard work anticipating big Easter attendances is finished. Larger numbers of volunteers were recruited. Worship services were added (some megachurches began Easter services on Thursday evening). Musicians practiced harder and longer; choirs and worship teams prepared their best. Preachers gave special effort to make sure their sermons were polished and ready.
New churches and multisites launched on Easter Sunday, with the hope to attract newcomers on the one Sunday when tradition prods the largest crowds toward church.
These crowds create the strategic reason for this extra effort. In spite of our secularized culture, plans for Easter Sunday (and Christmas Eve) still include church-going for many. So we take advantage of inertia and put our best foot forward for visitors and occasional attendees who may decide to become regulars.
But there’s more. We sing our best songs and preach our best sermons on Easter because Easter conveys the message at the heart of our faith. All we believe hinges on the fact of Christ’s resurrection.
This could not be stated more clearly than it was in a faith-affirming essay published Saturday by the Wall Street Journal. Written by James Martin, a Jesuit priest, “The Challenge of Easter” makes points parallel to those heard Sunday from Evangelical pulpits around the world.
“If you believe Jesus rose from the dead,” Martin wrote, “everything changes. . . . you cannot set aside any of his teachings.”
He reminds us why Easter must be more than one special day.
Easter says, above all, that Jesus Christ is Lord. That is an odd thing to read in a secular newspaper. But I’m merely stating a central Christian belief. And if he is Lord, and if you’re a Christian, then what he says has a claim on you. His teachings are invitations, to be sure, but they are also commands: Love your neighbors. Forgive. Care for the poor and the marginalized. Live a simple life. Put the needs of others before your own.
“Living in a universe where the resurrected Christ is escorting us into the future is a simultaneously peaceful and thrilling concept,” Joe Boyd wrote in his column posted at this site Sunday. “Our Savior isn’t dead, he is always alive and always just ahead of us.”
This is the power of Easter: to keep us looking forward, to move us beyond the great gatherings to humble service and victories in quiet, private battles with Satan.
Easter is past for another year. But the life and hope—and obligations—brought by the resurrection remain for the week and the months before us.