Just Another Easter

The Gallups in pastels for Easter

So that was fun.

I’m sure many of your found the courage to wear pastel colors that normally lie dormant in you closet the rest of the year yesterday. Perhaps you got together with family members you would never spend time with unless you had to. You may have eaten a few too many peeps than the recommended serving size. But even if you did none of these, chances are you went to church. Even if yesterday was the only day of the year that you do.

I’m normally a rather sentimental fellow. I cried when I watched Charlotte’s Web; and when I say cried, I mean I sobbed and snot poured out of ny nose and I didn’t care because I was so enraptured in the beauty of the moment. Yeh, I’m one of those. So usually every year around the beginning of Spring, I find myself knee-deep in snot and tears as I become overwhelmed by sheer beauty of the Easter story.

The whole thing is beautiful even if it isn’t personal, but it is. In no way am I worthy of such beauty, such grace, such love, such life. Yet the story of Easter is just about that, the meeting of our complete unworthiness with God’s complete welcome. When the weight of my folly intersects with the glory of God’s love, tears are paltry offerings to express the beauty of redemption.

But this year my eyes stayed dry. I wore my pastel pants, ate candy, went to church, sang about joy, and went to lunch like nothing different happened. I had to ask myself why.

Maybe because like our linen pants and pink ties, we rummage through the closet to find this thing called to Resurrection and pull it out for one day to show it off only to have it stored away till next year. The Resurrection is the climax of the gospel, the story of Jesus. Without it, we have no hope, we have no faith, we have no life. It completes the work of the cross and ushers in a New Creation that is bursting forth light where darkness once reigned. It is at the very center of our faith as Christians, yet for many of us it has already become an afterthought today.

The reality of the Resurrection is that it is not just an event that happened but it is always happening, especially right now. Our hope is that we too participate in the Resurrection through our faith and obedience in Christ. The intersection of our depravity and God’s love is our daily reality. Yet when we think that one day a year is good enough, we are in effect denying the Resurrection.

When we regulate the power of God to some children’s story that only matters peripherally at best, we deny that the tomb is empty. We deny that Jesus truly reigns in our hearts and in our world. This year I saw a spectacle of false joy. I was immersed in a group of people who had traded the truth of Easter for a lie. Because really nothing changed. We put on fake smile to match our shoes and tread upon the gravity of this story.

I may seem a little heavy-handed but I felt the weight of our hypocrisy most clearly yesterday. Instead of shedding tears of joy, I shed tears of sorrow. As my brothers and sisters gave lip service to “He is risen indeed” I wanted to shake them and plead, “do you really believe this?” Because if we did…..I’m not really sure what would happen if we really did.

But here is the power of Easter. The sins of our ignorance, the depravity of our hypocrisy is not met with God’s scorn but with his grace.

If the Resurrection is real then I can hope and rejoice that the life that seemed so distant in the very hearts it was professed to belong to, can (and I believe will) find its home there once again, perhaps even for the first time. The implication of Easter is that we can again cry tears of joy in the face of our hypocrisy because Jesus laid death in its grave.

I did not cry yesterday because I was also part of the denying crowd.

Because my vision was filled solely with our collective hypocrisy, I missed the intersection of grace altogether. I saw our depravity as victorious and that is the very lie the Resurrection destroys. Jesus overcame the grave so that Love can truly win.

Do I really believe this? Because if I did…..

Michael is the Pastor of the Church at Argenta. 

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Just Another Easter

  1. Georgie-ann

    I try not to let the effects of “collective worship” bring me down internally, if indeed all the outward symptoms are leading in that direction. It does happen,… at which point — instead of getting focused on the seemingly outward “failure” to launch sufficiently “in the spirit” as a group — I try to keep myself personally close to God, and accountable to Him. I pray for all, and look for general signs that people are “walking in love” and are sincerely trying to serve their Creator. If those general conditions are being met, I try not to be too judgmental otherwise.

    Around where I live, we have lots of “dignified” Christians in our Church, living beautiful and responsible and prayerful lives (probably more “beautiful and responsible” than mine!), and also perhaps “more comfortable” being “reserved” in Church, either from traditional habit or also very possibly “inhibition” or lack of opportunity. A godly (God-respecting) life is a “beautiful thing” (especially in this hour!), even if lived quietly and unobtrusively,… so — even though I’m a little bit more “obtrusive” (and perhaps even offensive!) and demonstrative by nature (when I “get going”) — I still genuinely hope their worship style is a sincere blessing to them.

    Of course, I’ll probably end up looking for a more compatible niche for my own artsy and demonstrative self,… and it can take awhile to find and/or grow one! I’m very very blessed with our “worship group” now, perhaps as “blessed” as I’ve ever been, but we’ve been “growing ourselves” for over 15 years, with plenty of goof-ups and growing pains ALL the while (even unto yesterday!),… not to worry!,… that all really ends up being “the small stuff”,… and when God blesses our operational difficulties and confusions, it’s just wonderful to behold! More than we ever “deserve!”,… but that’s our God!,… “more than enough!”,…more than we can expect,… more than we can imagine,… more than we can do or be on our own,… our personal limitations are “all part of the ball game” / who we are,… and God still loves us,… Love and patience will help “the collective garden grow,”… “despise not small beginnings,”… “keep the Faith & BE the Faith!” … even if you’re “feeling like” the “only one” for the time being,… we’re not alone,… you’re not alone,… God is with us,… we/you can’t lose!

    The effects of this Easter Resurrection are just beginning!

    • Michael Gallup

      Thanks Georgie-ann.

      I hope I painted my use of judgment as me denying the resurrection. I was so caught up in how everyone else was “doing church” that I lost sight of the reality of God’s love that surrounded it all.

      • Georgie-ann

        With the added details from everyone, I have a little bit of a different picture. I 100% agree with Eugene that our own personal growth with relationship to the New Creation Realities (the “new birth”) growing within us, is one that IS happening within, in a steady and on-going manner, as we pursue our relationship with God sincerely. Much of this is God’s work within us, much like we grow physically, we need to grow spiritually,… and it’s happening, but not by our own directed design.

        These contrasts, inner with outer, and our feelings about various “experiences” that we are having, go on for a long time,… including satisfaction, dissatisfaction, doubts, questions, joy, search. I think we are learning to discern many things about ourselves and our lives that will come into question as we grow spiritually, and are no longer simply “natural” man, just floating around. And we also wonder, “what does God think about all this?”

        I’ve often found out that God doesn’t spend a whole lot of time and energy sharing His personal gripes with me, but rather focuses on more positive things that build me up spiritually on the inside instead, in spite of the outside. Which I appreciate. Once I reach out to Him, and feel His hand on me, feel confirmed in His Love, I’m fine to carry on from there. And I really do think He loves a lot of those “other people” as well, and is probably working patiently in any way He can with them in their lives,… and it’s really His business, and not mine.

        Then one day, we suddenly realize that no matter what’s going on around us, we feel much steadier with God within,… less confused or distracted by or dependent on our surroundings, able to move “more purposefully” from one thing to another,… making choices and adjustments that need to be made, — (yes, some things are good, and some things aren’t, for sure) — with less anxiety, faithfully following and pursuing our relationship/connection to God, as He has shown it to us and grown it within us. But this is a real “process” and not something easily “figured out” in a moment — our God, Who Loves us, wants us to “be” real and “be” with Him in every moment, as He already “is” with us,… it’s us who are learning how to get there! (To be honest, I kind of think that the person I have become over time “in the Lord,” bears very little resemblance or connection to the “natural” person I used to be!,… like “you really can’t get there from here”,… or, “could these two people really know each other?”,… once the spiritual one grows or matures, it’s like the other one could just as well “fall off,”… but maybe that’s also just getting old!,… it’s all happening!)

        True story about the “holidays”: When I (now) “already know” that I’ll be caught up in massive “doing” — (even “church” doing) — during a “special” season, I make a deal with God: I’m giving this “all I’ve got,” but please give me a special moment, a special time with you, where I can taste and feel the special spiritual side of this holiday. Often I have to take “personal time” off, somewhere in the mix, for just “me and God,”… I’ll bet a lot of ministers who love God, and serve the people, are doing the same thing,… Our Praise and Worship and ministering is all for God’s glory, but takes “doing” and externalized effort of attention,… “to receive” personally is often special in minimizing these same things,…

        We had a phenomenal genuine outpouring on our Easter worship,… so much so that I think we were all really surprised! It was God’s gift to us, and again not by “our design”,… (or worse, “giving to get”),… I think if we remain open and attuned to God, whether quiet or expressive, He will be in our midst, filling us anew,…

        Psalm 108:1-5
        1 “O God, my heart is steadfast;
        I will sing and give praise, even with my glory.
        2 “Awake, lute and harp!
        I will awaken the dawn.
        3 “I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples,
        And I will sing praises to You among the nations.
        4 “For Your mercy is great above the heavens,
        And Your truth reaches to the clouds.

        5 “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
        And Your glory above all the earth.”

        Easter is a really special time for “Praise and Worship” — I was looking for a Scripture that I thought said something about God inhabiting our praises, but I couldn’t find it exactly,… of course, we have this promise:

        Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

        Our God is Good and Eternal,… if He “seems” to be hidden behind a strange cloud for the moment, just like the sun, He’ll “reappear” faithfully in all His Glory,… and our hearts will rejoice!

      • Georgie-ann

        I’ve been pondering the references to Pleasant-ville churches, & although we have plenty of types of services around here that I wouldn’t particularly choose to attend or be very happy in for long, I’m wondering if “Pleasant-ville” is a prevalent NY style,… NY isn’t really known for being very “pleasant” exactly,… (-;

        & there’s absolutely nothing like having precious church “family” to share these wonderful occasions with,… I do sympathize with you, for sure!,… But I’ve only been saying that God will use everything we go through on our journey toward Him — (one way or another) — to help form us and grow us and guide us as we become matured in Him,… It’s a long journey, and early “disappointments” will soon be left behind as new days dawn, and will just propel us along farther and deeper into our spiritual “search and find” efforts,… and this is more than understandable to God, I’m sure!,… (God isn’t “fooled” by anything!)

        He even promises to give us back things we’ve thought we’ve lost!

        Joel 2:25,26
        25 “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
        The crawling locust,
        The consuming locust,
        And the chewing locust,
        My great army which I sent among you.
        26 “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
        And praise the name of the Lord your God,
        Who has dealt wondrously with you;
        And My people shall never be put to shame.”

        1 Corinthians 13:4-8
        4 “Love suffers long and is kind; … 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.”

        This is also God’s love for us!

  2. Carri

    Thank you Michael for putting into words what I’ve believed for years but was never able to articulate or explain to anyone else until now. All I know is that more often than not, I intentionally choose not to go to church on Easter Sunday. I’ve had to live with friend’s confused looks and judgemental comments over the years because of my controversial decision. I’ve had to wrestle with my own doubts about my decision and question is if it was because I didn’t care about the resurrection, etc. But after reading your post I believe you’ve hit the nail on the head, I believe everyday is about dying and raising to new life in Christ, at least it’s for me anyway. It’s not reserved for just one day a year. I know many don’t see it that way but it appears the church has made Easter to be one of those days that non-believers think they should come (along with Christmas) and then go about their daily lives unchanged until the following year. I continually see the same thing happen with lent, coworkers & friends that never darken the doors of a church give up something for lent and I have to ask myself, ‘Why?’.

    Thank you for beiing so honest and open about what you experienced yesterday and for the reminder that our redemption and resurrection because of Christ death on the cross truly does extend beyond one day a year in April.

    God Bless you Michael

    • Michael Gallup

      Carri, thank you for you response. You summed up much of what I tried to say very well.

      I certainly have more questions than answers at this point. I’m glad you’re asking some of the same ones. God bless you in the finding.

  3. Pastel Pants? No matte how you dressed, I missed you three .5 people yesterday.

    During Easter weekend, it dawned on me that going back to watching tv and listening to radio (the things I “gave up” for Lent) on Easter day would be anticlimactic. If Resurrection is a truth for my daily life, then I should carry this beyond, as if Easter mattered after Easter. Plus I am enjoying the silence of not having those noisy things in my life so much.

    But I wonder if Easter is not more of a quiet reality. I don’t now if this is what you are really saying. If we really believed this, then what? Tears of sadness or joy, yes. Occasionally. But sudden, pyro-thecnical, George Lucas style life-change, I’m not sure. Paul often uses pregnancy terms to express the transformation Christ’s resurrection is making in us and our world. This pictures slow, sure, change, without much fanfare. I wonder if holidays such as Easter are not better understood as markers (like birthdays) of growth, rather than sudden explosions of devotion and emotion. But maybe I’m reading too much into your point.

    Yesterday Mike preached a powerful sermon on God’s power to change, forgive, heal, grow us. At the end he said this truth should change us, boom, like winning mega-millions would (and maybe I misheard his point too). I know what he means, the truth should change us. But I’m not sure God’s redemption is that sudden. It made me ask, as does your post: what does transformation look like? What does a resurrection life in Christ reflect? Not sure I know. But I want to.

    Thanks for an honest, thought provoking post.

    • Michael Gallup

      We missed you too.

      I guess part of the reason for my critique was that we visited two “cultural center” churches (aka mega-). Yesterday seemed like we were going to church in the movie Pleasentville. Its not hard to tell the difference between joy and the plastic veneer I saw yesterday. We act happy on Easter because we are supposed to not because we actually are.

      While you’re not wrong to read between the lines that the Resurrection should greatly change us, the emphasis is that it should effect us at least in some small way. That being said, your statement about slow faith is a welcome breath of fresh air (teaching) in the showbiz world that much of church has become.

      I also think I had such a hard time yesterday because I had spent the previous Easter with TNC. I truly grieve the loss of my experience with that church. I miss those people.

      • Thanks for the clarification. I am rather hard to communicate with sometimes. 🙂 As you know, part of the reason I am doing what I am is because I too tired of pastoring in the First Church of Pleasantville. I am sad that you experienced Easter that way. Know that you and Michala probably brought authenticity with you–and if I know you and God–it spoke to those around you.

  4. What if we made the resurrection the inciting incident in our lives. It might be the climax of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but if we put it first in our lives it would truly mess things up. Wouldn’t it? It would start us off on a real story. The thing about inciting incidents is they mess people’s lives up, make things uncomfortable. That’s what the truth of the resurrection does. It’s just so many people would rather see it as the climax and let their lives be in the fun denouement where everything is explained and all of their problems go away. But the problem with the resurrection is it doesn’t do this. Our struggles continue and so people give lip service to the resurrection, saying it’s amazing and everything, but in reality are disappointed that it isn’t doing for them what they would like it to do.

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