Easter is coming up. The last Sunday in March (there are five this year) is Palm Sunday and the first Sunday in April is Easter. The dates are March 29th and April 5th. Those of you that observed Ash Wednesday and/or the season of Lent are aware of these dates already, as well as anyone planning church activities and worship services. And it is those individuals – pastors, preachers, minsters and directors of music, all worship leaders – that I wish to address.
I spent several years in a ministry that included a daily chapel service. Not only did we observe Palm Sunday and Easter but we had the opportunity to celebrate each day of Holy Week. We could talk about the Triumphal Entry on Sunday and focus on the different aspects of Jesus’ final teachings with the Apostles each day that week. We could give a full day to the Last Supper, another to the arrest and false trial, and spend Good Friday detailing the events of the crucifixion. With all of that said and done the focus of Easter Sunday was entirely on celebrating the resurrection.
Chances are that most us do not attend a daily worship service. Families will gather at church on Easter Sunday that will not be present any other day of the year and there should certainly be a clear presentation of the Gospel. But I want to encourage everyone that has any hand in planning worship on that day to keep the focus on the Resurrection. The music, scripture reading, prayers and sermon should be celebratory and worship our risen savior. My point is this: Easter morning is not the time to preach a long sermon about how Christ suffered and died. It is central to our understanding of Christianity. I don’t want to leave it out, but I would encourage the detailed account of the Passion narrative to be part of Palm Sunday, either morning or evening, Wednesday evening services and/or Good Friday. Preach on the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday and make an event out of showing The Passion of Jesus Christ on Sunday evening or the evening of Good Friday. Plan a series of small group sessions, Sunday School lessons or Wednesday night Bible studies on those events. But don’t drag down the Sunday worship service on Easter morning with the agony of the cross.
The purpose of Easter is to celebrate the resurrection! He is alive and lives forevermore! Celebrating the resurrection on the first day of the week is why Christians are meeting on Sunday to begin with. Review the events for the benefit of your CEO (Christmas Easter Only) visitors but get on to the good stuff. Our hope is not in this life only and we can present the Gospel message passionately while emphasising new life in Jesus. “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” The purpose of our main Sunday morning service is not evangelism (or any other activity) but worship. Worship is not the means to an end but should be our goal in and of itself.
The crucifixion is necessary; the resurrection is a joyous cause for celebration and rejoicing.