It’s like we’re in a race. But this race is different. At this finish line, everyone loses.
The race happens every year at this time. It’s the race to see which church can have the most spectacular Easter celebration. It started out innocently. There’s going to be an egg hunt at First Baptist Church.
But that wasn’t enough.
Now First Assembly was advertising the largest Easter egg hunt in the county. And the folks at the new church across town certainly weren’t going to sit back and watch this race. They wanted to be in it. So they decided to have the largest Easter egg hunt in the world. And then the next year they would have a helicopter dropping eggs. Hunting for eggs on the ground is so 1980s. Helicopters is how you win the kids these days.
Until it wasn’t anymore.
So now, in an effort to get back in the race, the folks at First Baptist will have an Easter Bunny skydiving out of an airplane. No one can top that. Well, except for the even newer church that is already planning next year’s event where they will use a tomahawk missile to deliver a few hundred Easter eggs to eager kids. It promises to be a hit.
There’s a rationale behind this.
We have to get people in the doors, they tell us. And at this time of year, nothing does that quite like a few million Easter eggs. But when did the resurrection of Jesus from the grave become about seeing who could draw the biggest crowd? When did churches stop being churches and start acting more like car dealerships that promise you a great deal on a brand new Lexus only to tell you that the last one was just sold right before you showed up? Oh, but can I interest you in a slightly older and more expensive model?
Hunting Easter eggs isn’t the problem. Just like Christmas trees aren’t the problem. Both are fine traditions. But they make terrible replacements for the good news that Jesus came to earth to save his people, died and rose again. In an effort to be relevant, we have moved away from that message, fearing that it won’t make sense to the average non-Christian. But somehow we think that skydiving Easter bunnies will.
On the day that Jesus rose from the grave, Mary Magdalene and her friend Mary had come to care for his burial site. But there was a problem. No one was buried there anymore. The tomb was empty. The guards were out cold and the stone was rolled away with an angel sitting on top of it. That angel had a simple message.
“Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” Matthew 28:7 (ESV)
No bait and switch.
No concern with drawing a crowd.
Just a simple message.
Jesus is alive.
On their way, the Marys were interrupted by the risen Lord. When they saw him, the two ladies fell before his feet and worshiped him (Matthew 28:9).
Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost this. The fact that our God has conquered death and that through him death does not have the last say over us is no longer enough. We need helicopters and a few million more eggs.
And instead of worshiping Jesus like the two Marys did, we need a gimmick to get us going.
We’ve come a long way in two thousand years.
I’m just not sure that it’s in the right direction.