The celebration of Easter Sunday, is going to be quite a bit different for congregations this year due to the stay at home order.
While the location where people will be worshipping is going to change, local pastors are encouraging people to participate in worship services as they are offered this week.
Why is it important to celebrate Easter/Resurrection Sunday?
“Many people are saying how sad it will be that we don’t get to celebrate Easter this year. While it is true that most people will not be able to worship with their church family all together on Easter, Christians still celebrate our Lord’s resurrection from the dead,” explained Peter Sulzle of St. John Lutheran Church in Redwood Falls. “This is a celebration filled with joy, no matter what our earthly circumstances. This festival is the high point of the Christian church year and the culmination of our savior’s work of salvation for the world. Even if our lives have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, we still find comfort and peace knowing that we are right with God, because Jesus died for our sins and defeated death by his resurrection.”
According to Tim Dean, pastor of Redwood Alliance Church in Redwood Falls, “Celebrating Resurrection Sunday is important because we need to remember that Jesus defeated death. This distinguishes Jesus from all others and substantiates his claim as the only way to God the Father. Celebrating the resurrection also addresses the greatest fear we face in life.”
“People around the world love to celebrate special events in their lives or the lives of their people. It’s a way to remember what is important and significant to them and to show their respect for that event. Yet, to say that Resurrection Sunday is just another celebration like the rest greatly limits and diminishes the nature of that unique event. An innocent man, Jesus, was cruelly tortured and put to death in the most excruciating way possible. Yet, he was raised back to life. That has never happened in the history of mankind. That is certainly reason to celebrate. Yet, because of that resurrection, death has been defeated and destroyed, our many acts of disobedience and wrongdoing – which we call sin – have been forgiven, and eternal life is made available for those who have the faith to believe. So, we celebrate,” explained Marty Reynhout, pastor of Echo Alliance Church.
Why is the resurrection such an important event for Christians?
According to Randy Koppen, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Redwood Falls, “You can find forms of ‘new life after death’ in many of the world’s religions, but they are all predicated on what the individual has done or not done. Been a good person? Your next life will reward you with better status. Easter is unique among the world religions because the satisfaction of our sin is paid through the sacrificial love of Jesus. It is through receiving the gift, accepting God’s invitation to accept for ourselves the grace offered. Grace is unique to the Christian faith. Many religions venerate the birth or death of their founder. The biggest celebration for Christians celebrates Jesus resurrection.”
According to Sulzle, “God’s Word says in I Corinthians 15, ‘If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith...if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead’ (I Cor 15:14,16-20). The fact that Christ rose from the dead proves that he is the son of God just as he said. It is verification that God the father accepted his sacrifice in payment for the sins of the whole world,and since Jesus promised that he would rise from the dead, it proves that he will keep all of his promises. He has promised that those who believe in him have hope in this life as his dearly loved children and hope that they will rise from the dead too on the last day when Jesus comes again. So the resurrection proves that our faith is not futile, we are not in our sins and those who die in Christ are not lost. Our hope extends far beyond this life because Christ has been raised.”
How are you suggesting people in your congregation and in the community celebrate Easter in light of recent events?
According to Reynhout, “recent events are preventing church doors from being open for Easter this year, and the joyous celebrations of the church, as well as special family activities, will be sadly missed. However, Easter Sunday will still dawn on April 12, as scheduled on the calendar, and most churches will have their Easter service presented online. While those Easter services will be different than they usually are, the message of the resurrection will still be communicated, and everyone can still celebrate. Even personal or family reading of the resurrection scripture passages and singing songs of the risen savior can be done in each home to make the day meaningful. Many wonderful special events that are usually associated with Easter will be missing this year. It’s possible, then, that people might experience Easter in a deeper, more profound and personal way, because there will be less to distract them from the true meaning of the day."
Sulzle suggests people “get dressed in your Easter Sunday best; gather your family around the TV or computer while you watch and participate in Sunday worship services; use window paint or other artwork to display crosses, Easter lilies or other artwork to those who may walk or drive by your home; video chat with family while you eat your Easter breakfast or dinner and then end your time together with a devotion and prayer. No matter how your Easter celebration may change, trust that God's love in Jesus never changes.”
"Celebration is made in light of what we value. I wish we could celebrate in the traditional sense of meeting together, worshipping in song, reading the account of both the crucifixion and the resurrection, but this year, that does not seem wise. Most churches are posting videos either through live streaming or previously recorded presentations. I encourage you to participate through online viewing,” explained Dean. “If songs are presented, sing along. You can be present in spirit, even from a distance. Read the resurrection story from any or all of the gospels, and pray both in thanks to God for the gift of eternal life and for his intervention in our lives. Find hope in the fact that Jesus lives today."
“Gathering together on Easter will be much more like it was on that first Easter morning than our more recent celebrations. Remember the disciples are self quarantined afraid of death. The news of Jesus’ resurrection is met with skepticism and doubt,” explained Koppen. “Even Jesus practiced social distancing when he tells Mary not to come toward him, because he had not yet returned to the Father. We are all yearning to get close to each other again, to sing and worship, to smile and embrace, to experience a richness of community we’ve given up for the desire to show love and compassion to others. Many congregations, including First United Methodist are worshipping together ‘online.’ Some of those online options include being able to send messages during the worship service (be careful, the pastor can see at what point in the worship you might be paging through your virtual hymnal. The ‘passing of the peace’ is now a time where I ask the congregants to text or e-mail or even call others in the church with ‘the peace of Christ.’ Surprise someone with an actual phone call on Easter. God will ‘tap you on the shoulder’ about who to call if you just ask. Include an ancient Easter greeting - He is risen! Turn off the news and for just one day enjoy the peace. Easter is a promise of God's peace despite any circumstance.”
Check with the church of your choice to find out how it will be celebrating the resurrection this coming Easter Sunday (April 12).
- Image courtesy of the Internet Public Domain