Amid this time of uncertainty and change, one question looms for many church leaders: What do we do for Easter?
As the coronavirus spread across the world during the past few weeks, denomination after denomination announced that they were shutting the doors of their houses of worship.
At Easter, we celebrate all that Jesus did for us. We could not be forgiven of our sins and given the privilege of having a loving, personal, conversational, and missional relationship with him without his death and resurrection. He opened the door for us to walk through, to move close to HIM, to enjoy life with HIM.
WAYS YOU CAN CELEBRATE YOUR EASTER:
1. Move your Church service online.
Reports of drive-in prayer and worship services, online streaming of services, and video chats for Bible study groups continue to pour in from around the world. The pandemic shouldn’t stop the church from fellowship, public gatherings are restricted to curb the further spread of the coronavirus. As believers, being obedient to authority is paramount most especially in cases like this. We can enjoy our Easter from our respective homes by streaming services online, chat groups can be created where families can record worship sessions and upload. Believers are known to be rugged, nothing can stop us from celebrating Easter.
2. Pray and ask God for wisdom.
Ask God for wisdom. Jesus is still the head of the Church, and He is leading His people during this time. We often run the risk of finding someone else’s idea and implementing it without considering if it is how God is leading our local church.
Add to this, take time to consult with your leadership and people. Local ideas and solutions are often the most effective, so discuss Easter with people from your church as you pray.
3. Listen to a worship playlist.
While there’s certainly no replacement for your own church choir, a well-curated Spotify playlist of Easter tunes can help you and your family make a joyful noise, even if you’re the most tone-deaf crew on the block. With availability of songs online, you could download and create your own playlist!
4. Give an offering.
You may not be passing around the offering bag at church, but consider making an Easter-inspired donation to an organization that is meaningful to you, whether it’s your church, a local food pantry, or your own friend who’s currently out of work. A little generosity goes a long way.
5. Make a special Easter recipe.
Find the perfect recipes for a beautiful Easter brunch and Easter dinner. Nothing like a shared family secret to make everyone feel a little closer! Plus, it’s an easy way to keep favorite traditions alive, even when the usual gathering has been canceled.
6. Send Easter cards.
For those who aren’t typically big snail-mail fans, all this extra time indoors is an excellent opportunity to practice your penmanship and flex your letter-writing muscles to send Easter greetings to loved ones near and far. For the younger set, pull out the craft supplies and have them make cards for their grandparents, elderly neighbors, and residents at local nursing homes who can’t receive visitors.
Easter is about Jesus and his resurrection. But before that happened, a lot of things happened in history. There was creation and the fall and then the large boat Noah made float without Gorilla tape, but that is too far back. I’m thinking more about the week or so before Jesus was crucified and the day he was. I’m looking at their version of church, and how messed up it was. The Temple was a place where many people genuinely worshiped God. But it was also a place where the Priests manipulated people, posed in their self-righteous garb, and puffed up their egos. Some Temple-goers were abused, most were controlled, and all in the name of God, but really in the misuse of God’s name for the pleasure of the leaders. Jesus was going to fix that before he caught the redeye to heaven.
As Jesus came to Jerusalem in his last week with the shadow of the cross cruising toward him, he went to the Temple. He knew what he would find, and he found it. God had taught people to give sacrifices of different kinds, but the Pharisees had discovered a way to turn the heart-felt giving and the humble need for forgiveness into a profitable business. Jesus didn’t like it, and he said so. He even grabbed their cash registers and display tables and tossed them.
That shouldn’t have been a shocker to anyone. Jesus had challenged the religious leaders in their faux spiritual roles for three or so years. He hadn’t physically made a mess of things, but surely they saw that coming. His point was clear then and he might want to make it today. He might flip a few kiosks in some of our local churches this Sunday, if he were physically visiting. (That is a Messiah-thing, however, and I don’t recommend any of us try it. We’re too likely to be driven by selfish and prideful motives. Let’s not judge other churches. Let’s clean our own tables.)
By the time we get to crucifixion Friday, we see the Priests and Pharisees mocking the King of the world, the one who established the priesthood and the Temple. Here is how Matthew explained it,
In the same way the chief Priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:41-43)
The words are terrible, but the context is even worse. Jesus is hanging on the cross, dying because of being falsely accused, dying by his choice (see John 10:17-18) for us, for them. Two verses before this, Matthew records the bums of the crowd walking by and jeering at Jesus. One verse after this, the disciple tells us the robbers who were crucified with Jesus (guilty criminals, I might add) are also taunting Jesus. The Pharisees, the guys who were supposed to be the people’s religious leaders, humble servants, are acting exactly like the pagan cowards who yell negative things when their victim is helpless. They served in God’s name without being on God’s agenda. Now, they boldly reject Jesus, the Son of God, and then mosey back to their Temple. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. It still isn’t.
Many remarkable things happened when Jesus died, but something miraculous, symbolic and transforming happened in the Temple. The spectacular curtain that hung across the entrance to the Priest-only inner sanctuary was torn from the top to the bottom. The Temple and its perverted leaders were done. N.T. Wright says it this way,
“Jesus’ death is the beginning of the end for the system that had opposed him, that had refused to heed his summons, that had denied its vocation to be the light of the world, the city set on a hill to which the nations would flock.” (Matthew for Everyone)
Jesus is now our Great High Priest (Hebrews 10:21). He has offered the final sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:12, 26). But there is more.
Everyone who follows Jesus is a Priest.
“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…. You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:5, 9)
Priests! Wow. Each Christ-follower is now his or her own Priest. Yes, you, if you are a believer, have become a Priest.