A few years ago the assistant to the pastors sent out an email to the rest of the staff ahead of the Advent season. Her closing sentence has stuck with me ever since: "People, get ready. Jesus is coming." As you may know, Christmas is a busy season for the church.
So is Lent/Easter. Holy Week. That makes a lot of sense, I guess. The birth of Christ and the death and resurrection of Christ are kindof defining moments for us. Were it not for either one, well, I probably wouldn't be typing this. I wonder what I would be doing instead?
That's hard to say, because Christian or not, Christ's life has profoundly shaped our entire world. I might have been a musician, but the Christian faith has been critical in the development of music, both inside and outside of the church. What would music sound like today if composers had not written for the church?
But I digress. It's a common trope that people get so caught up in the business and busy-ness of Christmas that they lose track of what really matters. That happens at Easter too, at least for those of us who work in the church and for folks who volunteer a lot. The Chancel Choir, for example, will be here as many extra hours this season as they were in December. We've got so much music in the hopper right now that we're all wondering if we're going to get to the end in one piece. Let me assure you that we will (and you'll want to be here to hear all the awesomeness on Good Friday, 4/14 at 7pm and then Easter Sunday morning, 4/16).
It's funny that the time when uber-faithful folks are apt to lose track of what really matters is the very time when a lot of people who have wandered away from church wander back to check in. We're all happy to see them, and we spend a lot of time getting ready for them (secretly hoping this will be the time they decide to come back). But if we're honest, we kindof judge them. After all, we were Christian when Christian wasn't cool, and these Christmas/Easter Christians are like all those folks who became dyed-in-the-wool UNC fans as soon as they won, right?
We look out at the crowds of the high holy days, and we dream of the day when our pews will be filled like that every week. And that's actually the problem. If all we see when we look at the crowds that will gather this week are potential new or returning members, then we will do nothing more than remind them of why they typically stay away: church has become more about church than sharing the love of Christ. Like the disciples we have missed the whole point! Bless our hearts. The way of Christ that resonates with the soul is the way of love and care. The ChrEaster Faithful see through our extra coffee and parking lot greeters and trumpets and drums with x-ray vision and see clearly what we don't even see in ourselves: we have abandoned the fundamental message of the cross. Love others. More than we love ourselves.
Motives matter. Jesus said, "For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." What if we substitute "life" with "church?" "For those who want to save their church will lose it, and those who lose their church for my sake will find it?" This Holy Week, we should ask ourselves why we're doing all this anyway. Are we doing it because we want to save our church, or are we willing to risk losing our church in love? On Good Friday, Christ lost His life in love. That was His sacrifice. For those who mean to follow him, it must be ours as well. There is no path to the profound joy of Easter that bypasses the sacrifice of the cross.