3.24.2008

For once I am proud of my work.

I just completed the typical evangelical “Super Bowl” run. Well, really for church-worker types, there are two Super Bowls: Christmas and Easter. These are the two Sundays that people who don’t normally come to church may be so inclined to pull a door open and check things out.

And we live for this.

We ramp up for days, make sure the best is displayed, make sure that people can tell how happy you can be to be a Christian (especially if you go to our church), how Jesus is going to make your life so much better, just how cool it is to be “with us.”

And most of the time, I really don’t like it.

I know I’m over-thinking it, but I have never liked selling Jesus like a box of OxyClean. (what’s with that guy’s beard? He has to color that thing!) It’s not that I don’t believe in proclaiming Jesus, it’s just that most of my experiences with churches have been weighted in the extreme towards the proclamation, and not so much in the commitment. It’s almost as if we’ve inverted the iceberg. We downplay the communal commitment, the discipleship that is required—the sheer difficulty in doing this life of faith—and play up the mental ascent that Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins and rose again to give us new life.

But I digress. A month ago, I set out to try and make this Easter different for our commitment. As evangelicals, we don’t do “Lent”, since (a) we have no idea what it means, and (b) even if we did, it smacks of high church (even Catholicism—eek!).

But this makes no sense. Easter without Lent, without Holy Week, is rootless and senseless. Before new life came betrayal, came torture, came denial, then death. Even Easter morning in the bible, rather than the plastic, toothy smiles and Easter lilies is much more textured and, well, real, then we care to try and portray.

Just read the scriptures.

The first Easter morning must have been scary as hell. Where was Jesus? Raised from the dead? Read the words: the disciples didn’t find out about the tomb and then plant some flowers and sing a Chris Tomlin song.

They freaked out.

It was hours before they began to calm down and deal with things, as Jesus began to appear and deal with them.

So the thing that pains me as a church-worker-guy is that we constantly have to over-simplify the emotions of scripture (and this while we proclaim that the bible is inerrant, and that we follow its words). We ignore the complicated reality of the stories in order to mine something to make our visitors feel good.

But I digress again; so I committed to taking our community through the pain of Holy Week as best I could. No false hope. Friday is “black Friday.” Saturday is full of doubt and confusion. No release. (A large church I used to work at actually used to celebrate Good Friday on Thursday. They saw no problem with this. Discuss)

And you know what? People went on the journey. And not only our community’s “high church refugees”. No, our new believers, our roughly hewn pilgrims. We had a gathering on Friday night that had no sermon; in fact nothing took place from the front platform. We emptied everything and forced people to just journey through the story, as best we could tell it.

And then on Sunday, we released it all (still not dealing with some of the ambiguities, but hey: baby steps). But the cool thing is that where most churches spend thousands of dollars on flowers (not the poor) and stress out about the perfect 75 minute program, we bought 10 lilies, and showed one video, and played some songs about hope in darkness.

And you know what? I think (know?) God was pleased. Pleased because we told the story—we remembered—and that’s all God requires us to do in a sense. We rehearse the salvation story over and over again, and hopefully it becomes more real over time, to ourselves and our communities.

We hype Jesus so much, and sometimes I’m afraid that it’s because we don’t think the actually simple story of scripture—of incarnation, teaching, atonement, and resurrection—is somehow not powerful enough on its own.

Isn’t that scary? More on this later…

But for now, I’m satisfied, though tired. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say this as a church-worker-guy.

2 Comments:

At 10:34 AM , Blogger Grace, Every Day said...

And this is a very good thing.

Great post, good writing, but I am mostly moved by the obvious fact that your heart sang a true song. Good on you, and good for Jesus.

 
At 12:42 AM , Blogger Vicki said...

I totally agree. I think sometimes we need to go into the dark, to really appreciate the wonderful light that has been given to us.

 

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