Friday, April 4, 2014
An Easter Invitation
Every day there seems to be another article about religion in America. I recently came across one titled, “Losing Faith: 21 Percent SayReligion Not That Important.” According to data from an NBC/WSJ poll, one in five Americans say religion does not play an important role in their lives. A different Pew report says 20 percent of people identify themselves as spiritual but not religious. What does all that mean? What is this “religion” that is not important to people?
Some might find these numbers alarming, but not me. Maybe there is some real honesty and connection in what is going on. In fact, Jesus did not have many good things to say about some religious people of His day, especially when their religious institutions became more important to them than a personal relationship with the Living God. On the other hand, He did see His church as the instrument of God’s kingdom on earth. Remember what He told Peter in Matthew 16, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” We are now that church and carry a special responsibility for its success.
I don’t know of any other week that gets to the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ than Holy Week. Lots of religious trappings fall away and tables get overturned. We come as close as ever to understanding the depth of God’s love, from Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday, to Good Friday, and then to Easter. Holy Week comes around each year and reminds us who we are and what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ.
There is another piece of data that says many people “re-enter” the church at Easter. We will have more visitors come to worship with us that day than on any other in the year. I hope we all extend to them the wonderful gift of welcome and hospitality. By doing so, they may want to come back and try us out the rest of the year.
And here’s a thought, what if all of us invited someone to our Holy Week services? Have you ever invited anyone to join you for our joyous Easter celebration, or for our Maundy Thursday service? Many of you say Maundy Thursday communion is the most meaningful service in the entire year. It would be great to share that meaning with others in our community.
People are not interested in being introduced to religion, but they are interested in hearing the most amazing story ever told. They are interested in hearing that they are loved and accepted. They are interested in the story of Jesus and His love, and that’s what they’ll hear this Holy Week. Let’s spread the Good News as widely as we can.