Easter is almost here and we need it bad.
People throughout the world celebrate Easter differently just like people celebrate Christmas differently. When I was a little boy I remember Easter egg hunts at my Grandma and Grandpa Hinkle's place. They had lots of yard and egg hiding places and a lot of grandchildren to look for them. I was lucky if I found one or two eggs with all the competition. People still hunt for Easter eggs and look forward to an Easter basket. There are a couple of chocolate factories in our town and it's a home run week for them filling up Easter baskets.
Most Christians around the world will celebrate Easter in Church. Easter is the prime time Sunday of the year for the church. If a church cannot get a crowd on Easter then there will not be any crowds the rest of the year.
Easter is the Sunday when most churches have to bring out the folding chairs and park on the side of the road, the grass or down the way. By and large more Christians will dress up a bit more for church on Easter. Some people will have a new dress or suit or kids will have a new Easter outfit to wear. Or, if they don't always dress up for church some will make an effort to dress just a bit better than usual because it's Easter. Please do remember though if it's a good church they are glad you are there regardless of how you can afford to dress!
I served a number of congregations over the years and I loved Easter but was always really glad when it was over. The average minister has about 20 -25 minutes to hit a home run and round the bases before the average attendee totally zones out or starts eyeing the exit door. The message is much the same year after year - the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Christmas is about the birth of Jesus for the Church, Easter focuses on Christ's resurrection from the grave. In reality it shouldn't take an ingenious sermon to stir church people about a man who the Bible says overcame the grave and appeared to a number of people. Yet, every year it seems that clergy find a way to bore people with how they present the greatest story ever told by how they tell the story.
Christian people around the planet stake their lives and eternal destinies on the message of Easter - the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The New Testament time and time again reiterates this part of the Bible story, "He is risen!"
A dead Jesus takes all the air out of Christianity. If Jesus never arose from the grave then Christianity is just another organization meeting together every week and doing some nice things along the way. The church with a dead Jesus would still be a religious not for profit 501©3 but it would be a very dead religion.
There is so much sadness already in the world today. The world is hurting all over. From another horrible school shooting just this week at San Bernardino to a multiple number of murdered Christians reportedly bombed by Islamic State in Egypt. There is horror in Syria and growing tensions between Russia, Iran, North Korea and the United States. Fifty million plus Americans struggle every day in poverty. The hospitals and nursing homes are filled with people battling for their health and a little more life. The world is filled with worry. We worry about tomorrow. We worry how will we exist and we worry about our families and loved ones. We fret over a lot of stuff and often it is stuff we can't change or never fix. We carry too much baggage with us and often we cannot remember what is in the baggage. One of the richest people in the United States is in the storage unit business. Everywhere I travel today I see more and more storage units popping up because we prize our junk so much. We store it up and someone else will often have to throw it away when we die.
Easter is about hope. Easter is about peace. Easter is about a new life and a second chance. Easter is about bringing focus and meaning to this life and this world.
The Bible in John chapter 20 reports that Mary Magdalene saw Jesus on the first day of the week after his resurrection outside the entrance to the garden tomb. She ran to the disciples reporting, "I have seen the Lord!" Later that evening Jesus appeared to his disciples and said to them, "Peace be with you." He then showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. For the second time Jesus said, "Peace be with you." Later the disciples would report to one of the doubting disciples by the name of Thomas, "We have seen the Lord!" Thomas didn't believe it but later would see Jesus with his own eyes and touched the nail prints in his hands exclaiming, "My Lord and my God!"
The early followers of Jesus were filled with such peace and internal strength that their lives would never be the same again. They were so convicted internally about Jesus they would literally suffer and in many cases die for their faith.
America and really our world truly need a song to sing, a bell to ring and a hero to follow. Great people stand and fall and we all come and go. The message of Easter and a living Jesus continues to give hope, peace and strength to people around the world. This year not much has changed as once again, we need it really bad.