I worry Easter Sunday may be one of the hardest worship services to endure, at least for some people.
….Maybe that’s why there are so many “C & E Christians” (folks who just show up at Christmas and Easter)? So much of Easter Sunday feels emotionally one-sided, even insistent: “if you’re not going be happy, don’t rain on our Easter parade.” As if there is unspoken rule about attendance — wear pastels and be up. In light of the resurrection, are people left feeling almost if there’s no choice but to be joyful. “How could anything be wrong in your life (when Jesus rose from the dead)? If you’re not feeling it, something must be wrong with you. It’s Easter!”
You know how we are encouraged to offer a blue Christmas service in December for those who are oppressed rather than uplifted by the season? Well, maybe, likewise, we need to make room at Easter among the joyful for those who are feeling down. They might be feeling that resurrection isn’t for them, or at least it hasn’t hasn’t reached them yet.
(As a pastor, I’m sort of relieved of the shame of not being “Easter-joyful-enough.” Why? Because I’m so relieved when it’s over that my relief passes for joy!)
I don’t mean to steal anyone’s Easter spirit. But I also want to make sure there’s room in the pews for people who are feeling another sort of way. I’m not claiming to know how to design and lead a service with room for all. But the least I can do is say that should be our goal.
I want a service that recognizes that even as Christ is risen, there’s still a lot of unresolved hurt out there in our world. And in each of our hearts. A service that remembers not everyone is feeling all jump up and shout. I want us to understand that a bold but blind proclamation that ignores people’s pain comes across as fake or worse as torturous for anyone who is suffering more than rejoicing.
What about the couple enduring a difficult divorce, and the broken families, who are prodded or ‘peered’ into going to church on Easter?
Or the husband who is grieving the loss of his wife?
Or the mother worrying about a child in a distant part of the world that suddenly feels dangerous?
Or the teenager who is unhappy and feels trapped?
Or the people who have no idea what to make of resurrection, or if they even believe in God?
I don’t want to take the rousing Spirit out of Easter morning, but does our Easter service have to be a full flight from the reality of some people’s pain?
A unyielding proclamation isn’t going to make resurrection any more real for someone feeling overwhelmed or beaten down. Just like Christmas festivities can add to the suffering of those not feeling the season, emotionally tone-deaf Easter worship could make someone’s pain worse. And leave the church looking unsympathetic. Turn someone off who otherwise might benefit from the church’s ministry. The distance between where we site ourselves and where this person finds him or herself might become the person’s reason for not coming back…
I often have bridled at having to try to fit — time-wise and also thematically — communion into our Easter service. But I’m wondering now if maybe it’s the bridge to help our worship attain a broader emotional reach?
Pray that our service might find and move all the people in different places the holy day gathers in the Sanctuary. May the Rising Spirit of God work through us and our worship and carry us all some distance where God would have us go.
See you in church,