Monday, April 09, 2007

Post Easter Thoughts

It is the day after Easter. It is too easy to be hyped up from the Easter excitement and forget to think critically about Easter and Lent.

First thought: Don’t serve on jury duty during Lent! I received my original jury summons for the week of December 1. I was able to have that jury summons postponed. I had asked for the week of March 1—thinking of my last time on jury duty. Last time I only had to go in a few times and I was never placed on a jury—after all, no one wants a pastor on a jury. This time I had to report almost every day and was placed on a jury for a trial that extended past my original jury commitment. I tried to keep up with stuff at the church but I felt unprepared for the Easter rush.

Second thought: Every congregation should buy theatrical lights for their sanctuary. We purchased and installed the lights almost two years ago. The lights GREATLY enhanced our Holy Week services. Our Palm Sunday service is VERY different. We basically have two services in one. We start the service with a traditional Palm Sunday feel. The choir sings one or two numbers. We celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. After a Palm Sunday message and prayer the second part of the service begins—Jesus’ death. We have found that around twenty people will come out for a Good Friday service. So, most people don’t spend much time thinking about the crucifixion of Jesus. By ending our Palm Sunday service with the crucifixion and burial the entire congregation is faced with the reality of Jesus’ death. Our talented folks built a tomb at the front of the sanctuary. For this portion of the service I explain in detail the Roman crucifixion. The sanctuary is dark except for our stage lighting. The cross and tomb are lit with purple/red/blue lights. A few white lights highlight the area in front of the tomb where I am speaking. After talking about Christ’s death and burial we sing Chris Tomlin’s rendition of The Wonderful Cross. During the song the lights fade to black and black cloth is draped over the cross, communion table, pulpit and lectern. As the keyboard rumbles its last low “D” note the sanctuary is in total darkness. This was always a powerful service but the lighting made the impact 10 times more powerful. People leave in tears—the reality of Christ’s death is very powerful. Easter morning we begin with the sanctuary in darkness with everything still draped in black. After a few words of introduction a single white spotlight illuminates two singers with our worship team. The team is singing and playing a song called Arise My Love, by New Song. The second verse of the song goes, “The earth trembled and the tomb began to shake and like lightening from heaven the stone was rolled away.” At that time we had the stone removed and a single white spotlight shines directly in the tomb, showing the empty grave clothes. At the resurrection one of our fifth grade students, who is an excellent interpretive dancer, began to dance. The purple/red/blue spots begin to fade in—followed by all of the rest of the stage lighting. The beginning of our Easter service would have been good with regular lighting—it was BEYOND POWERFUL with the special lighting. If our church can do it so can your church!

Third thought: Take part in an Easter Sunrise Service with churches from other denominations. For many years our church had a combined service with another Presbyterian Church) that is 8 or 9 miles away). Four years ago we were invited to join with two local churches for a sunrise service—Graham Emmanuel Baptist Church and Graham Evangelical Covenant Church. We rotate the hosting of the service. Our service provides a united Christian experience on Easter morning.

Fourth thought: Have your best “after church food” of the entire year for Easter! On Tuesday we were putting the Seder food in the church’s fridge and freezer. We were horrified to find a cake in the freeze marked “for Easter Sunday.” The cake was basically exposed to every odor possible in the freezer. It was left over from Palm Sunday. It trying to save a few dollars our Easter crowd would be served leftover cake! That cake was immediately thrown into the garbage. We had a HUGE crowd stay after church for food. We had plenty of very good food—none of it being leftovers. We will make sure that we NEVER serve leftover cake after Sunday worship. God deserves better and so do God’s people!

Final thought for today: Take some risks! Our first time visitors on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday were blown away. They experience the death and resurrection of Jesus in an appropriate, powerful way. Most said they would definitely be back.


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