“This is not the church!” I remember thinking. Church is being here Sunday in and Sunday out, all year long, making a commitment to community, not just dropping in because you feel guilty, or your mom is visiting, or it’s the culturally expected thing to do.
Yes, I said that day that I felt rather used and angry.
As it turns out that was good advice, since no matter how mad I felt, the Easter phenomenon of multiplying worshippers never changes.
Instead of feeling angry at all the visitors, I’ve felt more pressure . . . pressure to perform for folks who give church a one-shot-a-year chance to impress . . . pressure to answer the question: What to say? What to say on this rare opportunity to preach a message someone needs to hear . . . ?
And people come to church on Easter, even if that’s the only time they attend all year long, to hear that story. The hope and freedom of the story stands on its own, which could, in fact, make this the easiest sermon of the whole year!
This was my Easter revelation, though sad to say it took about 10 years of serving on a church staff to come to this realization.Despite the anxiety of playing the biggest game of the year in front of a large crowd, the thing that saves me every Easter now is the story. Forget deep theology; forget textual criticism. Leave the word studies in the study and, for heaven’s sake, ditch the corny illustrations you got in your in-box all week. No matter what the theological challenges of the day may be, no matter the pressure to perform, in the end it’s the story that matters.
They came because, on some level, they wanted to hear the story.
My job is still to help create and build community all year long, but I’m no longer angry and I’ve given up feeling performance anxiety. All those folks who come to church on Easter Sunday (the Super Bowl of preaching) come to hear the story because on some level (family, tradition, culture, whatever) the story touches their lives.
I’ve finally realized that the best thing I could do on Easter Sunday is to leave the preaching acrobatics alone and just tell the story. The whole show might not be a total success every single year, but I’m learning.