I used to worry about this day. I’d worry about keeping things fresh. I’d worry about having to tell the same story over and over again. But now that I’m a pastor, it’s one of my favorite days of the year.
It’s Thursday morning. I’ve just finished preparing my sermon for Sunday. Easter Sunday. Some people call Easter the church’s Super Bowl. They have a point. On Super Bowl Sunday, even people who don’t care about football show up to the party for the experience, the commercials and the food. On Easter Sunday, even people who don’t really care about church show up for reasons of their own.
And I’m glad that they come.
Easter isn’t like the other religious or semi-religious holidays, except for maybe Christmas. On Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, there’s the concern for those who have lost a parent or who are not able to have kids. On July 4th, there’s that awkward feeling that comes when you as the pastor don’t meet some people’s expectations to get people to say a prayer at the end of the service and ask Uncle Sam into their heart. Oh, and there’s also that Lee Greenwood song.
Before I became a pastor I was afraid that Easter would be the same way. Same old story. Same once a year people.
As I prepared this week, I saw that nothing could be further from the truth. There are so many layers to the story of Jesus death and resurrection. The eye-witness accounts. Peter’s betrayal. The crowd’s insults. The thief’s last minute salvation. Man, it never gets old.
Here’s what does get old.
Mail-outs about the largest Easter egg hunt in seven states are old.
Easter services that look more like game shows with pastors doing their best Bob Barker impersonations are old.
Sermons about how you too can rise up from your own personal grave of _____________ (fill in the blank with debt, poverty, oppression, injustice or whatever else it is that you need to rise out of) are old.
These things are old because they take away from the story. The best stories don’t need cool special effects. The best stories don’t need much hype. The best stories are the ones that are true.
That’s why I like Easter so much. It’s the true story of Jesus dying to save sinners and rising from the grave to give them victory over sin and death. I don’t need a free iPad to help me to tell that story. Really, as a pastor, all I have to do is get out of the way.
Pastor, this Sunday, don’t worry about telling the same story or preaching the same sermon. Just tell the story from the Bible and get out of the way.
And if you’re going to an Easter service this weekend, even if you haven’t been to church since last Easter, forget about the experience and the tradition.
Just listen to the story.
The true story.
The true story that never gets old.