This year’s Easter season left me feeling…disappointed, I guess. I mean, the Sunday morning service was wonderful and the lunch with family was as interesting and hilarious as it always is, but now that the Easter season is behind us I can’t help but feel that something was missing. Easter just seemed…empty.
If you were on social media at all in the week or so leading up to Easter Sunday, you probably noticed at least one meme making the rounds regarding church parking lots on Easter Sunday morning. (The one below is my personal favourite.) As Christians, we tend to either poke fun at people who only show up at church for Easter and Christmas or wonder why they’re not more committed. That being said, I wonder if memes such as this aren’t hinting at something deeper.
Last Saturday afternoon I was in Kohl’s, shopping for a pair of sandals (as a Canadian living in the South I tend to forget just how important such things are for surviving the summer months), when I overheard a conversation between a woman and her teenage daughter. They were shopping for church/school shoes, and the daughter had picked out what appeared to be a nice pair of tennis shoes. The mother’s reaction was that they were too “sporty,” and that “sporty was OK for playing sports but not for church or school.”
Coming just before Easter weekend, these two incidents got me thinking. Do these incidents hint at something deeper?
How much of what we like to poke fun at with people only showing up for church on Easter and Christmas is due to the people themselves, and how much is due to the image we as Christians are portraying to the world? If people pack church parking lots come Easter Sunday, to the point that we can have a good laugh at it on Facebook, are they doing so because of a lack of commitment (or other personal issue), or are they doing it because the Jesus we’ve presented to the world is one who checks on a list of obligations, and by showing up on Easter Sunday you’ve checked off the box that keeps you in His good graces til Christmas? We can be too quick to find fault in the people who only seldom darken the doors of a church, and not quick enough to see the errors in the Jesus that we present to the world. If we’ve come to the point where tennis shoes are considered too “sporty” for church, then maybe we don’t know Jesus as well as we think we do.
If you’ve ever felt the way that I’m describing, or maybe the Jesus you think of is the Jesus of obligations and lists, then let me be the first to apologize to you. It’s not that He can’t be satisfied by keeping obligations like going to church (which really isn’t an obligation to begin with, but that’s for another post), it’s that He doesn’t ask us to do relate to Him in this way. He is so much more with us than just some cosmic accountant. In Matthew 11:28 (KJV) we read, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The sense of the original language with “labor” and “heavy laden” is of someone who is completely over-burdened, carrying an impossible load, burnt out, and done in. And what does Jesus promise? Rest. The sense here is not just eternal rest through salvation but of rest from the weariness and toil of life. That‘s how Jesus really is with us.
I can give you other examples as well. In Galatians 5:1 (ESV), the Apostle Paul tells us, “For freedom Christ has set us free.” A literal translation of that verse in the original Greek would read something like, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free into freedom.” That’s not a typo, either. The word “freedom” really does show up there three separate times (in case we missed the point). In Christ, you’re free. Free to be you. Free to relate to Him honestly and in open vulnerability. Free to trust. As we discussed here, you’re free to have the appearance you chose. And you’re free to wear tennis shoes to church. It is that freedom and life that is at the core of Christianity, and it is that, rather than list of obligations and duties, which Jesus offers to us. Have you taken Him up on His offer?
That’s what was missing from this Easter season, at least for me. That wild and crazy, free and unassuming, life that He offers us through the Gospel. It scared me how easy it was to put on my Sunday best, doing what was expected of me, and not wearing the sandals and t-shirt I would have been far more comfortable in. I don’t know what Easter was like for you, but if you were missing something, just as I was, that life is there. It’s His offer to us, and it’s an offer that never expires.