The Urban Grind

I Didn't Preach on Easter. Am I Insane?!

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Easter.

One of two weekends in the church year where the pastor needs absolute focus. You would think this is the case due to the overwhelming amount of midweek worship services (Advent + Lent), added worship services on the day itself to accommodate throngs of visitors, or simply the busyness of the seasons. While all true this is not the true reason for the pastor to demand focus of himself and from others. (Here’s some pastoral insider trading going on right now so pay attention.) The pastor needs absolute focus on Easter because this is his chance to take the stage, figuratively & literally, and blow people’s minds with the most epic resurrection sermon anyone has ever heard… of all weekends, with the exception of Christmas, this sermon has to kill it… bring the heat as one of my previous pastors would condition me to believe. The pastoral ego and reliance on preaching ability is never higher than when Jesus is born and when he returns to life, which is exactly why I didn’t preach on Easter.

I make it sound like a humble decision that walks the fine line of ministerial insanity. However, it wasn’t my decision at all. As a matter of fact I wasn’t even involved in the decision to forego an Easter sermon at all. I was pushed out! I was turned down! I was incredulous at first! How else would people hear the transcendent message of the resurrected Godman - Jesus Christ - if not from my creative rhetorical devices? A youth group play. A play?! A youth group play?! You can't be serious. Our first Easter as a church sucked and I vowed never again to griddle pancakes and hide eggs on Resurrection Sunday. A youth group play? As soon as the definitive suggestion left Mark’s mouth I sighed and told myself, "Maybe we’ll have an epic Easter next year…"

Weeks turned into months as the youth group met every Sunday morning and every Thursday evening to script, revise, and rehearse the production. Break Every Chain was a synthesis of the pavers of Jerusalem and the asphalt of Alton Park; the drive-by of a neighbor and the crucifixion of the Savior; a word of hope for the community and the promise of future Resurrection for all who believe. Break Every Chain was imagined to bring the ancient to the present through the nervous acting of off-broadway teenagers. I was skeptical. I was nervous none of the kids would even show up. I was scared that the central event of all time would be lost in the fray of Bieber-like headset mics. I was concerned with just about everything. I needed my chains of worry to be broken for sure. If God can take care of lilies and sparrows surely he can work out the Easter story through a youth production.

Break Every Chain went off without a hitch… surprisingly. I mean that in the most excited, sincere way possible considering things rarely go according to plan at Bridge City. The kids nailed it, the music killed it, and at the end the Good News that the Resurrection breaks every chain of sin, death, and the devil was clear as the early morning sunshine. And I didn’t have to preach a word. I didn’t have to crack my Bible or pull out my iPad. Like Mary & Mary I simply got to witness the grace and mercy of God’s salvation played out in front of me.

The concluding scene of the play was set at the funeral for the little girl who fell victim to the spray of passing lead. At this funeral, as the resurrection message was preached the perpetrator monologued about the power of God to break even the chains of his murderous actions in light of the murder of His Son - Jesus Christ. In and of itself that brought the heat. The kids were proud. Mark was proud. I was proud. Bridge City and the Community were proud. But the play didn’t end with cast introductions and final bows. Break Every Chain moved from the gym to the pool where were witnessed resurrection firsthand. An encore.

Camari, Zora, and Keorra died and rose to new life with Jesus on Easter morning.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. {Romans 6:3-4}

As the girls changed and set shower cap crowns upon their heads I shared these words with everyone alongside the steamy banks of the chlorinated waves. Death is all around us just like Break Every Chain showed us this morning. In Christ death loses its sting because from death comes life. In the death and resurrection of baptism God offers the Guarantee of faith and broken chains. Under filtered waters these girls are assured that their God chooses them to be his daughters. Before the girls marched down the death row ramp, grabbing the rails with eagerness, I looked at each one in the eye. Before their parents, friends, neighbors, and the Community I told them that in their baptism God promises that no matter what anyone ever tells them, no matter if they ever doubt their faith or question God’s faithfulness, or if friends try to convince them they have fallen from the good graces of the Merciful One, that in this moment, in these waters, with his powerful Word he says, “You’re my daughters now - resurrected with my Son."

Chains were broken on Easter morning, not plastic eggs. I even snuck in a sermon after all. Jesus, the Risen Christ, stole the show and dropped the curtain forever.

Christ is risen - He is risen indeed. Hallelujah!

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