Easter sometimes falls during spring break, when many families travel. This piece is not so much for worship planners as for families in your congregations who may be away from their home church; you may wish to consider using it in your church newsletter.
The piece was written a few years ago as part of Jane’s e-mail newsletter about life at her home congregation, Wheaton Christian Reformed Church (WCRC). She sends the newsletter almost weekly during the school year to college students and others who are away from their home church. The letters also include news about congregational members and activities.
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!
On Easter Sunday, churches all around the world proclaim that wonderful Easter affirmation. Maybe you were in a church that said it too.
Our family was traveling last Easter Sunday, so we talked about how and where we would worship. Should we decide on a church in advance and plan our trip to arrive at that church on Sunday morning? Should we just travel and try to find a church along the way? The option the kids got excited about was to plan a service for just our family in the van.
I listened in on some of their planning and was amused to hear the age-old argument between planned-in-advance liturgy and free-form worship. Marie (age 11) wanted to follow the order of service that we use at WCRC, and Peter (age 7) argued, “We can do whatever we want. We can eat mashed potatoes if we want.” “Peter,” Marie countered sternly, “this is worship. What do mashed potatoes have to do with worship?”
They ended up with a lovely service incorporating the elements Marie considered to be essential (greeting, prayer, confession, Scripture, song, and sermon) in an order of their own arranging. Peter opened the service with a 5-minute prelude (on three bongos, a tambourine, and plastic castanet) that can only be described as remarkable.
But it was the sermon my daughter delivered that I found most moving. She had chosen as her text Matthew 28:1-10, focusing on the words both the angel and Jesus said to the women at the tomb: “Don’t be afraid.” She reminded us that when the angel came to tell Mary that she would bear the Son of God, he told her, “Don’t be afraid. This is good news.” When the angels told the hepherds about Christ’s birth, they proclaimed, “Don’t be afraid. This is good news.” Again at the tomb, the angel said, “Don’t be afraid. It’s good news.” All these were leading up, she told us, to the ultimate assurance, from the risen Christ himself: “Don’t be afraid! It’s good news! Now go tell the other guys.”
I’m not sure how much Marie, at 11 years old, knows about the kind of bone-deep fears that come with the bad news of cancer, of losing a job, of tormented relationships, of global unrest. I’m not sure how much bad news you face and what kind of fears stalk you.
But I’m sure about this. Christ’s word to us this Easter—in the face of all that bad news—is this: Don’t be afraid. I am Good News. Now go tell the other guys.
It’s Easy Not to Go to Church
When You’re Away
We don’t usually conduct Sunday services in our van. But being gone for two and a half Sundays also taught me something that you may already know: It’s easy not to go to church. Especially when you’re away from home. I’m a church goer. I’m a church lover. But on vacation, out of our normal routine, with lots of other appealing bids for our time, skipping “just this once” was very inviting.
Maybe you were in a church on Easter that said, “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!” But maybe you weren’t.
If worshiping with other believers (in a time and place set aside specifically for worship—I don’t mean eating your mashed potatoes to the glory of God, though I hope you’ll do that too)—if worshiping with other believers has somehow fallen out of your routine, please change your routine. It’s important.
Because I want you to be in a place where you can hear, when you are afraid or disappointed or overwhelmed, “Don’t be afraid. There’s good news.” I want you to be in a place where you can hear, when you’re not afraid and when everything seems fine and you don’t feel particularly in need of encouragement or good news, “Go tell the other guys.”
Most of all, I want for you what happened for the women at the tomb on Easter morning. Here’s how Matthew describes it: “Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet, and worshiped him.”
It’s good news. Don’t miss out.
Under the Mercy,