Easter, the Resurrection, and Worship
Folks that know me well, know that I don’t much like the choice of the word, “Easter,” that is used in English speaking and German speaking congregations. The term originates from the name of a pagan goddess of the woodlands and is just one more reminder of syncretism that is found in the Christian world. Much like with Christmas, we seem to have created two parallel holidays: Easter with its chocolate and bunnies as a celebration of the coming of spring and Resurrection Sunday to venerate Jesus’ rising from the tomb (for my satirical reflection on Christmas and X-Mass in honor of C.S. Lewis, click here…).
Don’t misunderstand these musings… Theologically, I do affirm that we gather every Sunday to celebrate the Resurrection and to bless God’s name. Yet, with others, I agree that there is a pragmatic value attached to setting apart a time during the calendar year to focusing especially on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and reminding ourselves of its foundational importance to Christianity. In addition, Easter (think spring and new life here) and the tendency of people to come out to church, lends itself to being a time where a greater emphasis should be placed on evangelism and again the resurrection.
But can we talk honestly about church practices at Easter for a minute? How oftentimes, the tendency is to make this service bigger and fuller than other services during the year, save perhaps on Christmas Eve? The logic flows somewhat like this: 1) more people will come out, 2) if we make more of a production, then perhaps people will appreciate it enough to come out again the following Sunday.
But wait a minute? Is worship meant to be a production? Productions are about what we are doing and are about an outward performance. Is that really what should be present in the life of the church? I would say, no, it is not. Worship is about our drawing close to God according to His Word, they are about blessing God’s name and submitting ourselves to the instructions found in His Word. It’s not about us. It never was and never will be. The moment you make worship into a production is the moment you cease to be practicing something that is Biblical an you begin practicing idolatry. Further, the logic of the argument mentioned above fails as soon as those visitors, impressed by the production, come out any other Sunday morning of the year. Then, they see the hypocrisy of those putting on the production and what does that say about genuine Christianity?
Am I saying that we ought never do anything special on Resurrection Sunday? Of course not. But I am saying that those kinds of special things must never cross the line and become a performance. I am also saying that if you would not include said special music on any other Sunday of the year, you ought not include it on Resurrection Sunday, lest you fall into the trap of performance. Of course for some churches, performance is a way of life and that in itself is a conversation to be had another time.
So, where do I fall on this matter in terms of practice? I confess, it is easy to fall to the temptation of doing something big on Resurrection Sunday morning. The Resurrection of Christ is the great triumphant benediction of all of history, so indeed, that makes sense. But at the same time, I have become over the years much more sensitive to not making the morning a production. That defeats the purpose of why we gather and presents a false picture of Sunday worship to visitors. So, the order of service and elements that are present are the same as is found the rest of the calendar year. The only difference is that my preaching tends to be a little more evangelistic in nature than would be found on any other given Sunday. Other Sundays I focus a little more heavily on the discipleship of the body. What I don’t do is to make Resurrection Sunday or more commonly, “Easter Sunday,” into what one pastor I know calls “Superbowl Sunday for the Church.” That, I think is wrong.
This is something that I am still chewing on, what are your thoughts?