Easter, 2019

Posted on May 26, 2019


Easter, 2019

I’ve often wondered how pastors, ministers, priests, etc.—prepare their Easter addresses. For all of us who make public addresses, from the President on down to my level, perhaps talking to the local Rotarians or the ladies of the DAR, you have to identify your audience pretty carefully. The Rotarians like to hear things of global interest while the DAR ladies like something historical, preferably how their ancestors were exceptional people: BTW, they were.

But Easter—as does Christmas—brings in a special group of worshippers, usually the most that crowd into your church on any Sunday in the year. They come from the whole spectrum of Christianity, from the most faithful in their most favorite pew every Sunday to those who come twice a year, at Christmas and Easter, since this is an expected tradition in the family.

“Howdy pastor, wonderful sermon, see you next year.”

Who do you address? The faithful? The twice-a-year crowd?

It would be like, as near as I can figure, me going to a political rally for the first time, or perhaps my second time to satisfy my curiosity about the sanity of people who say and do this stuff. How does a politician running for office explain the “American system” to the average voter? Or perhaps hosting, as I did, a lunch to honor a visiting physicist from Argentina a few years ago. I invited him and his host physicist from UA and we had a nice lunch at the University Club. Curious as to what these two were doing together in physics and astronomy, I asked.

“What are you all doing?”

They looked at each other and smiled and finally the American physicist turned to me, not condescendingly but just in plain honesty, “Larry, it is nothing but formulas right now, I don’t think we can explain it in words.”

Sigh. I accepted that. It was offered in honesty. I don’t do physics formulas, or any others for that matter.

What about Easter? How does a pastor explain the meaning of Easter to an audience—the congregants—who represent everything from the most pious, Word and Spirit-filled Christians to the family that comes twice a year? For many of them Christmas means basically gift giving and Easter has a bunny in it.  

One sector of your congregation is reading and putting into practice what the Bible teaches us on a daily basis. For the Christmas and Easter group the “family” Bible is somewhere, but it hasn’t been touched since grandad or grandmother passed away. We inherited the Bible, but the insurance was a lot more beneficial.

Of course, a pastor has to focus on the centrality of Christianity, which is the life of Jesus Christ. Your minister is going to sound a bit simple and redundant to the faithful who may know the Bible better than she does, and have heard much on salvation, holiness, Mother Mary, love, hope, faith, forgiveness, and probably a lot of sin, depending upon how the priest and his denomination approaches it, from formal Roman Catholicism to snake handlers in the foothills.

I would be a bold—and foolish—Christian to suggest a syllabus for your Easter message. I borrow my main thought from the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Corinth.

“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-22 New International Version)

Now, you ministers have a wonderful, God-given calling to lead all the sheep as good pastors, priests and teachers. I admire and praise you, and you can count on me in to be there at Easter.

Published as “Explaining Easter to a diverse audience,” March 31, 2019 in The Tuscaloosa News