If ever the preacher or pastor is discouraged about preaching, Easter offers that special opportunity to do it well. Because people everywhere are prone to disappointment of many kinds the truth of the Easter message gives every reason for hope to anyone who is willing to believe it. Easter has got to be one of the best times of the year to be a preacher because it provides such an obvious reason for hope. This weekend has given several exciting occasions to tell the story of Easter in new and interesting ways.
On Thursday we attended a small informal home-style seder supper in which a fairly new Christian took it upon himself to cook a Passover Meal and walk us through its Christian interpretation. At various points in answer to questions from the participants I had he privilege of explaining some aspect of this important event in Jewish history. It was very interesting and an awful lot of fun!
Good Friday saw three of our Alliance churches join together for the remembrance of the events that make it such a special time of worship for Christians. Instead of preaching about Jesus’ trial and crucifixion we read the biblical account from Mark and then heard four readings that reflected on four important meanings of the cross. The two-minute readings gave a quick summary of why there is such a thing as Good Friday. Rather than an occasion for mere religious ceremonialism the day offers meaning to the fact that the cross is primarily a place of atonement for sin. The cross as a place for true character transformation was the main thought of the second reading. The third reading explained the cross as a place of healing and the fourth as a place of service which sometimes involves suffering. After the readings people were given the opportunity to come forward to identify themselves with that aspect of the cross which they found most meaningful. There response also included the chance to take Communion. It was very moving to reflect on each of these meanings and to see the people’s response.
And then this morning, Easter Sunday, my wife and I had the privilege of visiting a church for the first time to which I have been assigned as the transition pastor. Through difficult circumstances this church has recently taken a significant loss but the small group of people that remain believe that new life is possible. From Mark 16, I spoke to them of the three women who sadly wended their way to the Garden Tomb on that eventful day to embalm the body of the one who had come to mean so much to them. Sorrow upon sorrow, on the way they remembered that a large stone covered the entrance of the tomb. But when they looked up they saw that the stone was already rolled away.
It was in the act of looking up that the women began to discover new hope which turned into the realization that Jesus was no longer dead. The story reminds us that God specializes in giving hope to those who are willing to look to him for grace in the most difficult experiences of life. Because of the reality of this story the seeds of faith in the smallest and most discouraged of churches can once again generate life for a large and fruitful ministry. Because Jesus died and rose again there is reason for hope in the most difficult circumstances of our lives.
And that’s enough to encourage the most disheartened of preachers to get up and keep on preaching!