“Your faith might feel shaky this Easter. But Jesus would rather you limp through the door than keep Him at arm’s length. And he knows a thing – or two – about arm’s length.”
I wrote that two years ago, back when church doors were open.
Back when we said the church wasn’t a building but it actually kind of was.
Back when thoughts like, “I didn’t care for the sermon” lodged in our hearts then escaped our lips.
Back when we thought “our pew” was ours and not always, always, always a seat to yield to the wanderer who walked in the door not knowing the dress code or the seating code or that church ever was supposed to have a code.
Back when we forgot that we once wore rags.
Even when our Sunday best wasn’t meant to intimidate, it did. And that’s all gone this Easter. There are no fancy dresses or fussing about flowers or recitation of rote refrains. Our sanctuaries and worship centers are as empty as the grave.
And it’s awesome.
Don’t get me wrong, That’s my empty worship center pictured above and I have a lump in my throat looking at it. I miss my church family. I miss Carole, who calls me kiddo and always hugs me with her right cheek to mine. I miss Courtney and the other Courtney, who keep me young. I miss my fortysomething friend Kristin, who I watch from five rows back while she fusses over the baby she wasn’t sure she’d ever have.
But for the weak and tired and wounded and everyone the church was supposed to serve, it’s never been easier to tiptoe in. To try church on without the trappings. To get to Jesus.
It’s not that Christians haven’t tried to do a good job in church, because we have. But just like this pandemic is sifting our paychecks and our priorities and our breakneck paces, it’s also sifting our churches. We said that church is not about the building and I think we really believed it. Now we get to prove it.
Loving our neighbors always was the job. And we’re seeing it in real time. We’re chalking messages of hope on our driveways. We’re painting rocks with words of hope and hiding them in parks. We’re shopping for shut-ins and singing hymns from balconies. We’re staying home to save lives.
Stories will be told for generations about this day. May this be the Easter that hope busts out of brick and mortar buildings. May this be the Easter we stay home but the Gospel goes out. My this be the Easter we yield “our seats” and exponentially many more become seated with Christ. May this be the Easter when the same power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in millions more at dusk than it did at dawn.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about Jesus’ last recorded miracle before He was crucified. He restored the severed ear of an enemy. He made sure He could hear the Good News.
Social isolation can’t stop that, you know. We’ve taken church online and it’s become a lifeline. Our empty pews cry out all that really ever mattered – the tomb is empty, too.
We’re welcoming the broken. The social media surfers. The struggling who once vaguely believed in a God who parted the Red Sea but didn’t know He would part their Red Sea. The prodigals who are stumbling home out of pure muscle memory.
We’re seeking first the kingdom of God because our own kingdoms fell pretty fast.
My friend’s dad will watch our church service in a remote village in Sri Lanka today. They just got electricity a year ago, and they’re going to get the gospel today. Overnight the church has renewed global reach. We’re part of something bigger than ourselves or our church or the Capital C Church.
This could be the moment our churches hold a funeral for the phrase “we’ve always done it this way.” The moment we go all in with visiting prisoners, helping widows, feeding the hungry, achieving unity, and devoting ourselves to each other in love. The moment we strip everything down to what’s mission critical.
That’s what Jesus did when he hung naked on a tree 2,000 years ago.
And He rose again.
That’s our cue.
If you’d like to come to church with me today at 9 and 11 am or 5 pm PST, please click here. Bonus: I’ll be fumbling a few words during the welcome and announcements. Bigger bonus: Hope like an anchor is waiting for you there.
My thanks to Shawna Yarbrough for collaborating with me on this post.