By Pastor Mark Combs
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
You can always tell that Easter has arrived when you hear these words. I am writing this with the memory of the celebration of this past Easter Sunday fresh in my mind. I always feel an electric thrill run through me on hearing these words, and what a grand and glorious celebration we shared! For me, the miracle of the resurrection has always been an amazing display of how much God loves us. I hope that this particular Easter is giving us all a renewed sense of the wonder that is found in the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now, I say all that as I begin to think ahead to what will be happening in congregations all over the world this coming Sunday. We pastors all know the truth that this coming Sunday is one of notoriously low attendance. So many of us will lament the reality of seemingly fair weather Christians. (I often call them Chreasters – for Christmas and Easter attenders.) The problem with this reality is that so many people who profess to be Christian are not really on fire for what God calls us to be and do.
It really is a question of spirituality. One of the things that our council has undertaken in the past is to examine our congregation and look at what we do and how we do it. We did a survey and found that one of our weakest factors is passionate spirituality. Christian Schwarz, in his book, Natural Church Development, defines passionate spirituality this way: “Are the Christians in this church ‘on fire?’ Do they live committed lives and practice their faith with joy and enthusiasm?”
I really believe that when the answer is no, then that is how we get Chreasters! We are constantly challenged by the world around us, and it is just not chic to be all Christian.
I also know that we Lutherans have a great deal of trouble with this kind of talk. After all, with our German and Scandinavian roots, we know that you are not ever really supposed to be excited. We have been trained that we are not supposed to show our emotions, no matter what.
But the Bible calls us to something completely different. St. Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome, says this about the marks of Christians:
.. . love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:10-12, NRSV)
It is true that we do very well with parts of this passage. I am always amazed at how this congregation responds when someone is in need. I am thrilled to see how much care you hold for each other – providing meals and assistance in times of life crises.
However, I am forced to ask some questions. How do we do in terms of zeal? Are we ardent in spirit? Are we rejoicing in hope? I know that these questions are not easy to answer. So let me see if I can ask it another way. Are we excited about the things that happen within and through our congregation?
I know this is not true, but there are times when it seems that hardly any of us are excited about our church. Which leads to the question of what are we going to do about it? The answer to that question is really pretty straightforward. It is the challenge ofliving out what St. Paul says in the quote from Romans. Don’t be afraid to let the light of Christ show through you to the world.
You never know, but I am fairly certain that many of us will be surprised by how some things happen to bring glory to God. We may even find ourselves proclaiming with joy that Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! And what is really amazing is when we get to experience hos that kind of zeal is contagious!
Until next time.
See you in church,