A lot of good news and sad to say, a lot of bad news. The good news is another wonderful Easter. Most churches experienced near capacity crowds. That is pretty common on Easter Sunday. There is just something about Easter that puts that inner desire or maybe obligation to go to church. Desire is much better than obligation. Seems to me that desire will make us look forward to whatever is going to be happening at the church we select to honor with our presence. Since it is a church, whatever is happening should be about our Savior. The song service; I know it’s called the worship service now, should feature hymns that exalt Jesus and what He has done for us with eternal ramifications. The preaching must be about Jesus and what this particular time on the calendar represents in God’s eternal purpose of redeeming lost humanity.
Obligation to be at church on Easter doesn’t usually open the heart to appreciate what is happening at the church. Usually obligation to be there overrides the spiritual elements because the heart is focused on what a person could be doing instead of being stuck at church. That heart and brain attitude silences the spiritual emphasis of the worship service. By worship service I am referring to the entire slate of activities or program. That starts with the friendly welcoming handshake or hug and continues with the opening prayer, announcements, hymns and sermon. I always tried to minimize the announcement segment at Easter. After the sermon most churches extend what is called the invitation. That is the invitation for those in attendance to come forward and relay to the preacher what the Holy Spirit is telling them to do. That’s where obligation quenches the Spirit. Instead of being prompted by the Spirit to come forward obligation speaks in a still small voice of, “Let’s hurry up and get out of here.”
So, desire is much better than obligation. With all of that being said, we need to keep in mind that the Word of God is much sharper than a two-edged sword and it will cut to the inner most being and bring a realization of the need for a Redeemer. Then Isaiah also tells us the Word of God will not return empty but it will accomplish what God purposes. So, that is why it is so important for the hymns and the sermon to be the Word of God. The Apostle Paul knew what he was talking about when he told his son in the ministry, Timothy, to PREACH THE WORD.
There was some bad news over the Easter weekend. I’m sure most of you have heard about the bombings in Sri Lanka of churches and hotels. The last count of fatalities is approaching 300 with many more injuries. Of course the Notre Dame cathedral fire and destruction was sad news to the millions of Catholics around the world. It seems that churches are under increased targets for destruction. Loss of buildings can be devastating to congregations but we need to remember that the building is not the church. The redeemed people that assemble for worship in those buildings are the church. The first 300 years or so of the church age saw congregations meeting in houses and by creeks and rivers. It is looking as though the closer we get to the return of the Lord the more we will return to the original methods of congregational worship.
Jesus gave many words of encouragement and comfort to His disciples. Much of what He said applied to those early church members and also to all of us who have been redeemed through the centuries. Jesus said that He will build His Church on a rock. A rock represents stability and permanence. He also added to that the fact that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church. That particular word for hell is the one that means “grave.” Even as church members die, there will be more and more conversions throughout the centuries to keep the going strong. Folks, if you are redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb, you are on the winning side. The victory has been won.