Monday evening and I’m still glowing from Sunday morning. An Easter Lilly sits before me in our living room; the pungent aroma has become a part of my post Easter high. What a glorious Resurrection weekend it was. I absolutely love Easter. Love it. Christmas too. For all the obvious reasons…and maybe a couple more.
Christmas means Immanuel and Easter means resurrection, good enough reasons to walk around all day with a smile on your face, but these holidays have taken on additional significance as I have enjoyed them and reflected through the years.
Our average attendance at Edgewood is somewhere around 800 including our Fond du Lac campus; on Easter, that number for the past two years has soared to around 1400. I think this percentage bump in attendance is common at many churches in not-quite-yet-post-Christian America…and I for one delight in it.
There is a caricature of a pastor and congregation who see the hoards of people coming in the doors on Christmas Eve and Easter and react with anger at the “invaders” of their holy space. Strange…I suppose there might be some pastor and people out there who feel this way, but for us at Edgewood, the hoards of unfamiliar faces streaming into our church on these high holidays fill us with delight: we know they will soon hear a message that under Holy Ghost power will transform their eternity.
In the 1980’s at the University of Illinois, we Navigator college students would occasionally gather on Saturday afternoons to pray, and then go out two by two to look for people with whom we might share the “bridge illustration”: two cliffs, man on one side, God on the other, a chasm of sin, and a bridge made of a cross. Scary afternoons, these were, but good and glorious also – we had a powerful message and we wanted to proclaim it. We just needed to find willing ears, which sometimes wasn’t so easy: “Say, we were wondering if you have 5 minutes (this was technically true if they didn’t ask questions) to see an illustration that shows the main message of the Bible?”
Many times there were eternal results to these Saturday afternoon efforts. I myself had been the beneficiary of such a “cold” contact at West Point. So was Diane at UW Eau Claire. But for those who went out two by two, it was hard…and scary…easy to wish you were back in the dorm room studying for Monday’s Accounting exam.
But ministering in the local church, it’s all different now: at Easter (and Christmas), they come streaming to us. Oh, sure, many are not asking for a life-changing message, rather a wee bit of yearly tradition to correspond with their Easter egg gathering and brunching and bonnet-wearing. But we’ve been entrusted with the gospel, and we make good on this trust every year – we sing loudly of the “Happy Day, when Jesus washed our sins away.” We delight that “Christ the Lord is risen today!” And no longer am I begging strangers for 5 minutes – the multitudes happily seem to give me a full 30 to tell them the old, old story…the message of salvation from God’s own holy word.
I can’t wait for Christmas Eve.