Easter Is Not About You

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crosslambAs we finish out this Lenten season with the hope of Resurrection Sunday, I have been reflecting on some of the verbiage that I know will be used on Easter Sunday. Many evangelical churches gear up their services for this weekend (albeit, we do not do much remembering up until that weekend — in fact, many churches neglect the entire Lenten season and instead only focus on Easter Sunday, which I have written about before). They add extra “elements” to attract those who have not been at church in a while. They make sure that everything sounds and looks great. They will add extra services to make sure that people will attend.

We do all of this in hopes that the Gospel message of Easter is heard by many.

I am not here to discuss the effectiveness of these techniques, although I do have my opinions. What amazes me even more is the language that many pastors will use this coming weekend.

“God loves YOU so much…”
“On the cross, Christ thought about YOU…”
“He rose so YOU wouldn’t have to go through…”

Much of our language around Easter centers around individuals. Whereas this might be true, I believe it does a great disservice to the heart of the Gospel message. The Easter message has digressed into a selfish plea.

This shouldn’t come as too much of a shock considering that even when reading the Bible, many of us ask the question, “What does this mean for me?” We have taken God’s grand story and dwindled it down to a personal application. Our lens for reading Scripture is, “How can this help me in my life?” When this represents many in the evangelical church culture, of course our message on Easter Sunday will contain verbiage focusing on individuals.

As a kid, I remember someone telling me that if “I was the only person in the world, God would’ve still sent His Son for me.” It was a nice sentiment, but I think it does a great injustice to the nature of God. In trying to express God’s love, we have, instead, romanticized God’s love.

You are not the single affection of God.

Easter is about a reconciliation of ALL things. Easter is about ALL of creation being reconciled to God. Easter is about God.

It is true that Easter is hope for you. That because of what Christ did, we no longer have to fear death. That resurrection of all will occur. That death has no victory over you.

But it isn’t just about you.

If we continue to dilute the Gospel message, we will continue to perpetuate a selfish society. Instead, we need to take the complete Gospel message and penetrate a selfish society. It is like we are trying to preach Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John without preaching the entire Old Testament.

This is the difficulty of Easter. In order to understand the significance of what Christ did, we need to understand the story of Israel and the story of God…we need to understand the Old Testament.

The story of Easter is larger than you. It is larger than me. It needs to be. It has to be.

Let us move away from speaking the Gospel message to individuals and instead move toward inviting individuals to be a part of the Gospel message. This is one of the things I love about liturgical/high church services. I never walk away with a little fortune cookie saying of God’s love for me. I always walk away with a better understanding of God’s relationship with the world and what that means for creation.

May we not try to look at the Easter message in a new, fresh, or relevant (horrible word) way, but in the way it was meant to be viewed. This Easter, let us focus on what it means for everything…not just what it means for you.

Ignoring Easter

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Each Easter, I feel like the evangelical church does somewhat of a disservice to the resurrection. That’s a hard statement to say. It’s even harder for me to believe. We add services and put together a well-polished worship experience in hopes that people will experience the resurrection in a new and artistic way.

13395709894_5e33eefdf8But what I mean by this is that much of our efforts rely solely on one weekend. We focus all of our attention for that day or that weekend. But Easter is much larger than a day or a weekend. If one day could completely change the fate of creation, isn’t it safe to assume that it deserves as much focus, if not more focus, than our other significant day, Christmas?

This year, I participated in Lent. In years past, I have tried to follow this fast. I have never successfully done so, however. My senior year in college, I decided to give up sugar for Lent. This was a crazy thing for me because I love sugar (as most of us do). I remember flying out to Las Vegas to do an interview for an internship at Central Christian Church. During one of my interviews, I met with Chris Trethewey, the Family Ministries Pastor, for breakfast. The place had chocolate-chip pancakes and I broke down and ordered them. Chris was asking some questions to get to know me and I remember mentioning that I had given up sugar for Lent. He looked at me confused and said, “But you just ordered chocolate-chip pancakes! There’s sugar in those!” I laughed it off and said, “It’s breakfast, so it doesn’t count.”


 Easter is much larger than a day or a weekend.


Pondering on that conversation this year has reminded me how lightly we treat Easter. Lent is a beautiful time of reflection, prayer, repentance, and self-denial. It is a time that we try and become like Christ. Christ fasted for 40 days in preparation of His ministry. We fast these 40 days in preparation for the day that changed the fate of creation.

This year, I gave up coffee for Lent. For those of you that know me, this was almost an impossible task. The 40-day fast from this has redirected my focus toward Christ and what the cross meant for us and what the resurrection means for us. On the cross, Christ died a criminal but in the grave, He arose a Savior.

N.T. Wright, in his book Surprised by Hope, writes about Easter like this:

Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrate as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom?… We should be taking steps to celebrate Easter in creative ways: in art, literature, children’s games, poetry, music, dance, festivals, bells, special concerts, anything that comes to mind. This is our greatest festival. Take Christmas away, and in biblical terms you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else. Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity; as Paul says, you are still in your sins. We shouldn’t allow the secular world, with its schedules and habits and parareligious events, its cute Easter bunnies, to blow us off course. This is our greatest day. We should put the flags out.

This day should excite us. Because of Christ defeating death, He has defeated death for all of us. His resurrection is the most pivotal moment in history. And I fear that we just cram this pivotal moment into one day.


 On the cross, Christ died a criminal but in the grave, He arose a Savior.


During Advent season, we sing songs of Christ’s birth for weeks leading up to Christmas. We give extra gifts and monies to help people who cannot help themselves. We decorate our sanctuaries and throw festive parties. Families spend time together and invite those who have no families. This is beautiful. But shouldn’t Easter be just as beautiful? Shouldn’t Easter have the parties, the gifts, the monies, the decorations, the songs, and the family time?

Advent celebrates that our Savior has come. Easter celebrates that our Savior has won. Both are important. Both are worthy of celebrations beyond comparison.

holy-spiritSome argue that in reality, we celebrate Easter each Sunday. On paper, this is true. Because of what Christ did, we celebrate Easter each Sunday. However, do we direct our thoughts to that? Or do we just take it for granted that everyone in church knows and understands that? Is what Christ did only mentioned when we want to have a dramatic conclusion to a service? Perhaps each week we need to take the time to celebrate what Easter means for us.


 Advent celebrates that our Savior has come. Easter celebrates that our Savior has won.


Sometimes I feel like we ignore Easter. What I mean by that is that we ignore it until the day of. I have been guilty of this. Much of my life, I knew what Easter meant, but I looked forward to Christmas more…and not just because of the gifts. I have several fond memories associated with Christmas: traditions, parties, songs, feasts, etc.

This Easter, let us celebrate life. Life to the fullest. May there be parties and celebrations. May there be gifts and monies donated. May there be laughter and songs. May there be feasts and good conversations. Our Savior has won. And that is something that is more worthy than a weekend of celebration. That is something that is worthy of a lifetime of celebration.

Women

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689a88267369f5e5c2d3360d618479e4Last year, I read (or rather, listened) to Tina Fey’s Bossypants. It was an autobiographical book dealing primarily with her years before and after Saturday Night Live. There was a part in the book where she mentioned that Lorne Michaels (creator and executive producer) was excited about her becoming part of the writing staff because he was looking to diversify. Fey was startled by the comment because she was a female and didn’t seem to think that being a female meant diversity. As the first female head writer of Saturday Night Live, it was interesting to read about her time there and about the changes she was able to make.

The 2012 election gave Congress 20 female senators, which is the most in US history.

In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow became the first female to win Best Director at the Oscars.

In 2013, General Motors named their first female CEO and it was also the first female CEO of a major automaker.

In 2008, Sarah Palin was the first female VP nominee. (**I have since been notified by my father, Tony Trimble, that Geraldine Ferraro was actually the first VP nominee for a major American party. Palin was just the first female VP candidate for the Republican party.**)

This year, the Golden Globes and the Oscars were hosted by females.

One would have to be ignorant to not see the strides that women have made in the past few years. From the entertainment industry to politics to business, women are being recognized and rewarded for their talent. They have been fighting an uphill battle for quite some time and with each accomplishment, they see how the fight has been worth it all.

But it’s far from over. Within the Church, there still seems to be a vast number of people who are against women in leadership roles. Most of the time, there are at least two passages that are brought up, sometimes 3, in regards to why this should be the case: I Corinthians 14.34 and I Timothy 2.12 (sometimes, they will also mention I Timothy 3.1-13).

What has always been intriguing to me about those passages is how we choose an extremely literal interoperation of them. But we do not use that same hermeneutic on other Pauline texts. For instance:

I Corinthians 11.4-6 (NLT) says this:

A man dishonors his head if he covers his head while praying or prophesying. But a woman dishonors her head if she prays or prophesies without a covering on her head, for this is the same as shaving her head. Yes, if she refuses to wear a head covering, she should cut off all her hair! But since it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut or her head shaved, she should wear a covering.

I have seen men praying with caps on before. But Paul says it is dishonorable. I guess that means a majority of the Pope’s prayers have been dishonorable. Women no longer wear head coverings to church. Why do we no longer make them do this?

I Timothy 2.8-9 (NLT) says this:

In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy. And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes.

It’s been a long time since I went to church and saw men praying with holy hands lifted up to God. And I have seen numerous pieces of jewelry on women in church, as well. We will allow all of these changes.

But women must still remain silent and should not have any position of leadership over a man.

I think we sometimes forget that God appointed Deborah a judge, had Anna the prophet be the first to proclaim that Jesus is the redemption, applauded Priscilla for her faith and how she spread the good news, and had a group of women tell the disciples that the Christ had been resurrected. Women haven’t always been silent. On the contrary, they have spoken powerful messages concerning the movements of God and His Church.

I don’t think that Paul was against women in leadership in the church. I think he was against anything that stood in the way of the Gospel being preached and in that church, several women were doing just that. But Christ liberated women through His teachings and I don’t think that Paul went back on that at all.

One of my favorite parts of Christ’s life is how a woman prophesied His redemptive nature and how women proclaimed the truth of His redemptive nature in the end. In the end, Christ commanded the women to go and tell the other disciples about what they had just seen. I think Christ is still commanding women to go and proclaim the good news. I think Christ is still calling women to serve in the church in leadership positions.

And who knows, maybe if they did, each Sunday would begin to look a little bit more like Resurrection Sunday.