It’s Easter! End of planning notes.
OK, not really. But Easter, like Christmas, has so many local traditions that it almost plans itself. Except when it doesn’t, or can’t, because of outside problems. Last year’s Easter was . . . wait for it . . . unprecedented. There was nothing like it before, and we hope there will be nothing like it again. However, this year may be similar. There are projections that a vaccine will be available, but how is the distribution going by this time? Who knows? (I’m writing months ahead, so I can’t even speculate.) But it is possible, even likely, that there will still be some restrictions to observe – not to mention the knock-on effect of all those months of virtual worship. Some may have decided that they prefer virtual worship and decide to not return to in-person worship even when it is safe to do so.
Suffice it to say, this year may be different too. So how do you celebrate Easter in all its glory, despite the restrictions? The first thing to keep in mind is that attitude, not accessories, makes Easter the celebration that it needs to be. Perhaps the first questions are, “Who will bring this great good news to the congregation? Who can express the joy of this moment? Who can bring enthusiasm to the proclamation of the Word? Who will speak into the glory of this moment?”
We don’t ask for the impossible, for accomplished performers only to take the stage. We ask only for those who can let this moment speak through them. One place to look is children. Let children lead on this day. For “to such as these,” says our Lord, “belongs the kin-dom.” Find a child to read the scripture text. Find a child to sing. Invite children to speak of the joy within them.
The colors of Easter are white and gold; the lights should be bright; the music should be loud and joyous. But maybe none of this is possible. Instead, let the faces of the congregation be the color and the light; let the laughter of the children be the music of joy.
If people desire a re-enactment of the story, then emphasize the running and the surprise. Focus on the response, the wonder, the amazement, the incredulity. Our problem these days is that we’ve heard the story so often that it no longer stuns us. We nod along as if this is what we knew was going to happen all along. It’s old news, not necessarily startling news. That’s why we focused on the end of Mark’s Gospel, the terror and amazement of this moment. Amazement, sure, we get that; it is surprising and startling. But terror? Sure, that’s what Mark said, but why? Because everything has changed. Everything is uncertain. Everything is new. Do you remember being new in this congregation? Do you remember the newness of the pandemic? There is terror in that. We’ve entered into a new world, a new reality. Grab hold of how this event has made everything new. We’ve lost our grip on that, it seems.
So, let there be joy – however it takes to project it, whether in person or through a screen or even in print. Tell jokes, funny stories; let there be laughter. Easter is a day to feel, even more than to understand. It is a day to accept more than a day to explain. Even though our foundations have been shaken, we move forward, because that is where the Risen one is going. He is going ahead of you. Let’s keep moving forward.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.