Easter Is Not About You


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


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.

I Deny the Resurrection


A few days back, I finished Peter Rollins’s new book “Insurrection.” The book is subtitled: To believe is human. To doubt, divine. It is a fitting subtitle.

Rollins finishes the book with a piece entitled: I Deny the Resurrection. I’ve heard him do it before at the Poets, Prophets, and Preachers Conference in 2009. But it reminded me of one thing: I, too, deny the Resurrection.

It was a hard realization to come to, at first. I’ve spent most of my life as a Christian and I realize that I deny the Resurrection. Watch the video. Perhaps you do, as well.

As I listened to him speak, I realized what I was guilty of. I think many of us are fearful of admitting such a thing. But it’s true.

For the longest time, I believed, as a Christian, that life was about getting by so you could get to Heaven. Now don’t get me wrong, it was nice to do things for others…periodically. But most of the time, it was about hanging out together and encouraging one another. That’s what I believed the church was all about. If that’s true, then the church denies the Resurrection.

The book opened my eyes. Far too often, we deny the Resurrection. I have become so inward focused at times that I disgust myself.

I don’t try to help the oppressed.

I don’t look after the widows and orphans.

I don’t feed the hungry.

I don’t clothe the naked.

I don’t do a lot of things that I should. And when I don’t, I deny everything that Christ did. Because if I truly believed it, I would do those things. When we do not act for the oppressed, we become the oppressors.

The unfortunate thing, is that it is easy for us to deny the Resurrection. We get caught up in “doing things” that we never actually “do things.” I see this in many churches. We get caught up in ice-cream socials, potlucks, game nights, movie nights, youth group hangout times, camps, Sunday morning worship, etc., that we never actually act out the Resurrection. We schedule event after event within the church but rarely do we take up the social justice issues outside the church. If we truly believe in the Resurrection, we would be more active.

We can read the Bible as much as we want. We can memorize it in its entirety. We can sing song after song worshipping God. We can pray without ceasing. We can partake communion every Sunday. We can give God our 10%. We can volunteer to clean the church. We can help make cookies for the youth trip. All of these things are great. But unless we begin doing things outside the church, unless we begin caring for those who can’t care for themselves, unless we realize that Christ is greater than what happens inside the 4 walls, we deny the Resurrection.

So what about you? Do you deny the Resurrection as well? Sometimes I do as well. Although, I’m working on it more and more.