For the past 100 years or so, Easter Sunday has been something like the Super Bowl for many American churches. It's been the day when many churches have pulled out all the stops to put on a show. These celebrations range from modest triumphalism to over-the-top entertainment.
When I was growing up it was the Easter Cantata. Today it's professional-caliber musical performances and dramatic productions. Or celebrity speakers and musicians. Or extravagant giveaways to draw a crowd.
But even though each church might do it a little different, they were all variations of the same theme. Easter Sunday is a day to celebrate. It's a day for triumph. It's a day to pack the house, put on your best clothes, pull out all the stops, and put on a show.
So what happens to that feeling of triumphalism when you're forced to stay home or stayhuddled inside your vehicles because we're plagued by a deadly virus we cannot see?
What happens when the choir can't sing? When the pews remain empty? When the offering plates stay stacked together on the communion table? When the children's wing has nobody to clean up after?
What happens to the triumphalistic, super-bowl atmosphere that has become the Easter of the American church when the American church can't gather?
The answer to that question depends on why we felt triumphant in the first place. What was it about Easter Sunday that caused many churchgoers, many Christians, and yes, many pastors to feel triumphant? Did we feel triumphant because this was the day that our services were full? Because this was the day our offerings multiplied like Jesus' fishes and loaves? Because this was the day that stoked our egos as new faces came to listen to us?
If that's why we felt triumphant, than we have every reason to despair looking back on Easter 2020.
But . . . for those of who know that our triumph is rooted not in our circumstances, but in the cross and resurrection of Jesus, there is NOTHING that can take away our hope. This past Easter may have looked nothing like the Super Bowl of the American church. Instead, it'll look like faithful remembrance in the simple, earth-shattering truth that He is risen, He is risen indeed. And that's a very good thing.