In a little under two weeks is Easter Sunday, and as I was reflecting on that (read, worrying how I was going to preach it, my first Easter sermon), I was reminded that some in the Christian world began calling it “Resurrection Sunday” a few years ago. I wonder if they’ll call it that again this year.
As I understand it, they started calling it that to combat the commercialism and superficiality the day has become, filled with Easter bunnies and chocolate and painted eggs.
Obviously the true reason behind Easter
And that reminded me of something I read recently: one of the influential leaders of the Southern Baptist denomination, Russell Moore, is no longer referring to himself as an Evangelical Christian. Instead he wants to be called a “gospel Christian.” Aside from the ridiculous number of things certain neo-Reformed Christians are adding the word “gospel” to so that it’s become almost meaningless or cliche in itself, Moore is doing it to distance himself from the politics-heavy baggage of the word Evangelical, something we in Canada don’t really face.
Having said that, I find his decision to do so more reactionary than anything else.
But that has always been the way of things with us North American Christians. What we fear we vehemently denounce and vilify and flee. We’re so afraid of becoming contaminated by the world (which we practice quite selectively, I would add) that we have forgotten how to love those in the world (which we’ve also forgotten, our 2nd greatest command to do). The Puritans outlawed Christmas trees and other decorations and traditions. We have “Harvest Parties” (or even worse, Hell Houses) instead of Halloween parties. We’ve treated the poor and oppressed in our society terribly, because they were “sinners” and we were such super-awesome holy people.
But all of those are reactionary responses, and not at all like He who we are supposed to be emulating in this world.
So instead of reacting, I would propose we redeem instead.
Call it Easter instead of “Resurrection Sunday,” but then look for ways you can actually practice resurrection in your community. What need can you or your church fill or help rectify? Who do you know that could use a helping hand, or a listening ear, or a meal, or a friend? Then do that, instead. God has already prepared good works for you to do. Go and do them. Redeem what Easter means – not just an event in history (that changed history), but an event that transforms the ways we are meant to live and be, and transfers us from the kingdom of sin and death to the kingdom of the Son of God. An event that redeems us.
Instead of having a “Harvest Party” at your church as an alternative for your church kids to go trick-or-treating, have a legit haunted house that will be fun for all types of families to come to, and then invite the neighbourhood around your church. Seriously. Just do it to bless them. Say, “we’re doing this because we want to love you and get to know you, because Jesus loves you” and leave your sermonizing at that. Get good treats for it. Don’t hand out tracts (especially like this one). You’ll a) surprise them, and b) maybe make them think they might actually be welcome at your church on a Sunday. It’s not cultural capitulation, it’s Paul looking at the idols around him and using one of them to point to the true God.
Instead of rebranding yourself a “gospel Christian,” call yourself an Evangelical Christian and redeem what people think that means, by getting out of politics and actually living out the teachings and commands of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
What do you find yourself or your church reacting to in the culture and world these days? Instead, in what ways can you work to redeem those things instead, for God’s kingdom and glory?