It may sound out of place coming from a former pastor, but when I was pastoring, I hated Easter. Christmas too.
Yes, I loved the rhythm of church calendar from the joy of celebrating Jesus birth to the mournful and somber rememberance of his death and resurrection but there was (and still is for all practicing pastors) a difficulty in navigating these two holidays.
I knew going into either Christmas or Easter that there were going to be a number of people who went to church only on one of these two holidays. These people were/are familiar with the basics of the story – the bookends. Everyone seems familiar with the story of Jesus’ birth (even if it is a highly Americanized version complete with full manger scene) and his crucifixion (thanks, Mel Gibson!) The trouble lies in trying to communicate this same message that is one of only two that most people have heard several times. They’d heard it all before and wanted to hear the same thing again.
I remember often praying asking God to have people turn the corner this time. To breakthrough and show them that the church actually gathers together as the body of Christ more than twice a year.
Each year I would struggle trying to prepare something for Christmas and Easter. I was excited to celebrate both but my heart was always heavy. As a communicator, I never wanted a single week to be predictable or anyone to feel like “I know what’s coming next.” and every Easter I felt people walked in thinking “tell me about Jesus’ death and resurrection and make it snappy. I’ve got a sweet, delicious ham cooking and a family to eat with so let’s hit the high points, preacherman and get out of here.”
As someone who values both the life and death of Jesus and communication as an art form (I still have a passion for the art of the sermon) I would spend weeks, if not months, dreading these two holidays while being excited to celebrate them at the same time.
This Easter though, something is especially difficult.
We launched our church plant on an Easter Sunday. This Easter would have been our third anniversary as a church.
The last couple of days, all I’ve thought about is how I’d do anything to still be wrestling with that love/hate of Easter. That tension of trying to present a well known story in a way that would connect and bring something new or forgotten to people so that they’d want to follow Jesus more.
This year, there’s a definite pain, a constant dull ache, as I mourn the lost of the thing that I poured more of my life into than anything else.
Let me be clear – I AM NOT LOOKING FOR SYMPATHY. As someone who is naturally extraverted I tend to process things out loud and with others. Blogging is my “out loud” at times so I write here as a way of processing my feelings. Don’t feel sorry for me, this is how I work through some things.
Easter is a time where we celebrate the resurrection. The grave that couldn’t hold the Savior. It’s a unique time because the high and the low of the season are packaged so close together.
Friday night seemed to be the deepest tragedy – Jesus crucified.
Sunday was the greatest victory ever won – Jesus rose from the grave with forgiveness, grace, redemption, and life (for now and forever) in his hands and he offers them freely to all!
There are times I still feel like I’m in that Friday period. Like I’m still watching Jesus crucified or staring at the tomb waiting for him to walk out and show me clearly what he wants from me.
Until then, my plan is to keep loving and serving him through the pain and the ache.
I used to share in my teaching that it’s often from that pain that God births our greatest works. Seem weird? Think about this: most shelters for battered women are started by former abuse victims. Most mentoring programs are started by men who grew up without a father. Once the cycle of pain is broken, God often uses it to help free others from that pain. It’s beautiful.
Let me be clear – it has also been nice that I’ve been connecting with a church, plugging in there, and even had an opportunity to teach. It was great. There’s definitely still a pull to the art of the sermon that I feel.
Maybe this little “Nerd Pastor” thing will help me get there.
This Easter, I’m doing my best to listen to how God would use my pain and hurt to help heal others, praying that he’d show me how to use my passion and love of teaching and Jesus to somehow share with the world that there is more to him that his birth and death.