Lent and Holy Week have been pretty important in my life and my spiritual walk through the years. And there is nothing better than when the fasting and solemnity they bring finally culminates in the massive outburst of joy at Easter. Christ is risen! There is no better celebration than Easter!
Or at least there should be.
In many cultures, churches see a bump in attendance at Easter and everyone dresses up. The music is lively and high-quality. There are years that even the sun seems to shine brighter on Easter!
This past Easter did not exactly look like that in the church my wife and I pastor. We serve as missionaries in Dominican Republic and are volunteering as pastors of a small church plant in a dusty neighborhood on the outskirts of Santo Domingo. We had been talking up our Holy Week services for many weeks, especially Easter. We had prepped our leadership team for the important day, and the celebration was ready!
Or so we thought.
We arrived early and I had forgotten the keys to the little, concrete building. Normally that’s not a problem. But today the other two laypeople who always get there early to clean and set up were not there. After a few phone calls and our 15-year old running a couple blocks to get the key, we found ourselves sweeping and wiping off chairs five minutes before the start of service.
Not that there were a bunch of people awkwardly waiting to get in. Holy Week is vacation week in much of Latin America and half of our congregation was out of town. When you are a church of 45, that gets noticed easily. By the time the service started, we were mostly kids and a few sleepy adults. Jesus is alive! But are we?!
The leader we are training to be the future pastor preached well, but it had more to do with Father’s Day than Easter. Father’s Day is in two months.
Maybe you are better than me. Maybe you don’t let any of this stuff get to you. But I found it distracting and disheartening. What a downer! This is supposed to be Easter, people!
To be honest, I was in a slumber, and it was of my own doing. I needed a Resurrection as much as anybody.
We began to read from the passage in Luke.
“They found the stone rolled away from the tomb…”
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
“He is not here; he is risen!”
With each familiar phrase, my eyes started to open in wonder to all God was doing in our midst.
The sixth-grade girl I was sharing my Bible with was following along in silent interest. She had not even wanted to read anythingwhen we met her in Sunday School two years ago.
The university student leading worship was doing a tremendous job. He truly believes what he’s saying and singing!
Hey, that’s the fourth time in a row that José has come; God must really be doing something in his life.
The evidence of life was all around me. Low attendance? Fidgety little kids? Off-topic message? Who cares?! Christ busted out of the tomb and that changes everything!
Next week I can guarantee you that there are going to be lots of things that go wrong before, during, and after our services. But I will choose to live in the reality of Easter. All that stuff is inconsequential compared to our risen Lord triumphing over death, hell, and the grave!
Will you join me this week? Lent and Holy Week have come and gone. But Easter remains. Why would you keep looking for the living among the dead?