the early morning sunrise service at the beach or at one of the local memorial parks around san diego…and always followed by a pancake breakfast in the church fellowship hall for everyone. the women taking care of all the details, while the men stood protecting the griddles. i still have a memory of the bacon smell in that old room.
after breakfast there was always time to go home, clean up and get ready for the easter service.
every little kid had on their sunday best. many in some brand new easter outfits. girls in frilly pastel dresses with bows in their hair and white gloves with lace. boys in sharp three-piece suits with clip on ties…and dress shirts that wouldn’t stay tucked in while they ran through the foyer of the sanctuary.
the women were always in new dresses…bright colors and floppy hats. always a corsage on their shoulder or wrist. the men in full-size suits to match all the little men.
the sanctuary was adorned with white lilies down the isles and on the stage and huge colorful floral arrangements at the entrances and on either side of the communion table. the congregation would sing all four verses of “he arose”, “christ the lord is risen today” and “he lives”…every easter.
the choir would always sing a mini-cantata (because the full-blown cantata was usually reserved for christmas). we would sing “when i survey the wonderous cross” for the communion song and there would definitely be a dueling piano-organ offertory to fire up people to give a little extra money.
you could bet the house that the preacher would have his best sermon of the year…complete with convincing proofs of the resurrection and a passionate invitation for people to walk down the aisle and accept jesus christ as their personal lord and savior.
and if nobody came, you could be sure there would be a few extra verses of “just as i am” to help motivate the unregenerate. even if there weren’t any there among the hundred or so…
there’s something about the innocence and simplicity of those days that i miss. though not the suit.
these days, easter has taken on some changes. just this past weekend, i’ve read about churches that had helicopter drops of candy…live farm animals…1000’s of door hanger invitations…massive kid’s musicals…bounce houses…easter egg hunts…over-the-tops stage sets…celebrity guest speakers…
hey, we even had a church here in the great state that had tim tebow come and speak a few words. they had over 15,000 people show up…nearly doubling their regular attendance.
i even heard of a church that gave away iPads and a free car. happy easter!
believe it or, i’m not feeling particularly critical today. go figure. if all that stuff results in somebody experiencing the hope and new life that jesus came to give, then i have to see good in it. but it’s not without a cost.
over the years, i’ve seen just about every form of bait and switch the church has had to offer. and they all leave a problem that has to be faced.
the temptation for many churches is to make easter… or christmas…into these spectacular church services. not because that’s who we are or what we do all the time, but because we think maybe we’ll have visitors. but the problem is we aren’t necessarily showing them who we really are…the rest of the time. it’s almost as if we are hiding our true selves. by putting on a bigger show than normal, we’re putting on a mask… hoping they’ll be super impressed and like us and come back.
but are we really being honest when our easter and christmas services don’t look like they normally do throughout the rest of the year? are we setting ourselves up for unrealistic expectations? are we setting up our new friends for failure?
maybe we should just be who we are and let god do what he wants in the hearts of people.
for the record, we did an extra song at north point yesterday. a way better use of that five minutes than people listening to me.
have a great week.
in case you didn’t read saturday’s blog post, you need to go here and read it. starting wednesday, we’re going to do a little team competition/accountability weight loss plan for those of us who have been having a little too much fun at the feeding trough lately.
if you need to shed a few pounds…and want some help doing it…sign up for the padre’s biggest loser. you’ll be glad you did.