Easter has just been a little over a week ago. And it was good. It was a “He Is Risen, Indeed!” kind of good.
I know that all churches pull out all the stops for Easter. That special Sunday, along with Christmas, is what brings in the Christmas and Easter (“Chreaster“) crowds. Visitors who haven’t been to church in years find it important to go that day. So, even those churches that are regularly “small and struggling” can feel “big and happening” for a day. That’s what it was like here, both in Seward and Moose Pass. We’re not big churhes. But in my head I can still see the many faces who gathered for worship, making a full church. In Seward, the bell choir filled the church with their wonderful music. We had a children’s choir that did awesome as they sang “Down By the Riverside.” The praise band had folks singing out. Even the all-church picture we took down in Seward worked beautifully. In Moose Pass the choir pulled off three pieces acapella.
It was a mountaintop experience.
It was a good Easter Sunday.
Even the dinner with friends at our home later that evening was wonderful.
A good Easter.
This kind of Sunday feeds my soul. I love it when the church is full and we have lots of programing going on and it’s boistrous and a happening place. There’s an energy. And I know the congregation feels it too.
Now, I know that church isn’t about the number of people coming and I know it’s not about who can have the loudest praise band or the biggest choir or the most Sunday School classes for kids. But I like it when we’re full and, maybe for one day, we can feel like a big, programmatic church–the kind whose pastors write some of the books I read and who get all the religious buzz in the community.
And I think our members and friends like that too.
We all like to feel like we’re playing with the “big boys;” that we’re the popular, attractional church for a day. And, for that day, we felt it. At least I did.
As much as I read, and write, and preach, and teach that true church doesn’t need to be like an amusement park for the kids and a rock concert for the teens and a hipster coffee shop for the adults, it’s hard not to feel inadequate and constantly compare yourself to the latest and greatest popular church around. When I was in Indiana, at a relatively small United Methodist Church, the congregation kept looking across town to the “big” Methodist Church–the one with the large Youth Group and the “Contemporary Service”–fearing that it was only a matter of time before all of their members would head over there to greener religious pastures. And I know it’s not just a small-church thing. When I visited Mississippi I heard from the pastor at one of the biggest United Methodist Churches in the state that there was a burden with being the pastor at the big, cool, popular church with the latest and greatest ministries. You were always looking over your shoulder for the next big, cool, popular church to move into the neighborhood with the newer, cooler, more popular pastor.
While we know we have security in Christ it’s amazing how insecure we can be at times…even in the church.
And so, for that one Sunday on Easter, it’s great to feel like a big, happening church with more stuff going on than you know know what to do with and having to pull out more seats to accommodate the masses that are coming to worship.
With all the excitement of Jesus being raised from the dead, our insecurities fade away.
But, what happens when it’s not Easter Sunday anymore?
What happens when, even though Christ is still raised from the dead, some of the magic wears off, some of the crowds stay away, and some of the energy peters out?
What happens when we come down off of that Easter high?
Do we pull out all the stops the next week?
Or do we try to focus our faith on something other than trying to be younger hipper, with a “bigger show” and like that big church we see on TV so we don’t have to live off of that Easter worship high?
Easter Sunday was awesome. But I’m going to tell you that the Sunday after Easter was awesome, too. There were no rocking songs from the Praise Band–although our presentation of “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival” was inspiring. The attendence was down…a lot. Fewer bells. Fewer whistles.
But it was a good Sunday. We cared for each other. We heard The Word read and proclaimed. And we talked about discipleship–sharing the Gospel, specifically…evangelism. We went about the work and practice of being the church in this world of ours. This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. And it was really good that we had meeting of our Missional Community, “Downtown Grace” where we’re really trying to DO discipleship. It’s at the beginning stages, but it’s good…really good.
I love that Easter high. I really do.
But I love the work of trying to be a disciple when we come down off of that mountaintop Sunday as well.
I really do.