It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it usually turns out to be a double blessing. Curious? Well, I’m talking about the years that Easter falls on the first Sunday of the month, which is also when I conduct the service at one of our local retirement centers, Sunny View. Whenever that happens, it is a wide world of Easter! Such was the case today, so perhaps a little explanation would help.
A quick disclaimer: nothing I write is intended to be superior, egotistical, or in the praise of men. Nor is it meant to be negative, demeaning, or a result of being frustrated with men. These are just factual observations that have come to help me as I work with God in his sanctification of me.
On one hand, my day at First Family (where I am privileged to serve as Lead Pastor) was a day of intense anticipation. Various dramatic monologues – not only rehearsed in advance but written even earlier – beautiful songs by both vocalists and musicians, passionate worship among those in attendance, extra communication and personnel to welcome guests, and specially synced emphases for kids were just part of the many ways our church went the extra mile on Resurrection Sunday. And after months of outreach and preparation, a multitude of volunteers and a lot of small groups came together to “pull off” Portraits of the Passion, our multi-media worship event. And what a wonderful two-week emphasis it was. Several came to Christ, many others made decisions about baptism, and even more connected at a deeper level to the body of Christ. All in all, just under 1000 were in attendance on Resurrection Sunday, a humbling experience for a church not yet six years old. Then there’s the residual effect of the day – who really knows how much fruit will be borne in the days and weeks to come?! Hallelujah! I make no apologies for saying that, as a pastor and preacher, it was invigorating to see God at work. And it makes me long for more fruit.
On the other hand, my day at Sunny View was, in human terms, quite the opposite. Leading the simple 45-minute service were me and my three girls, and another family’s mother and her two youngest. That’s all! We sang a capella, the children played flute and piano solos, and I preached a simple message. There are sometimes as many as 25 there, and even if several are sleeping, they are at least there. After all, for many of them, that stroll (or roll) down the hall is quite the effort. This Sunday, though, there were only about 20, for some were picked up by family for a day away. The most intriguing oddity is that while we are conducting the service, buzzers are going off, visitors are walking by, and nurses are checking rooms. It’s quite the circus at times. Yet, the tears I see and the hugs I receive each month are reward enough for this pastor (at least to them).
See what I mean by a “wide world of Easter”? The two experiences, all within hours of each other, are no doubt at polar ends of the “church service” spectrum. Yet, both focus on the Son of God, are (hopefully) done in the power of the God, contain the presence of God, and bring glory to God. Granted, they each have their enjoyable aspects and frustrating elements. But I must admit that the latter one always brings me the right perspective about the first one. I truly welcome both, but probably need the second one more.
You see, sometimes in the chase for the perfect and seamless production, we miss the contentment of mistake-prone effort wrapped in the purest of motives. Ideally, I’d like both. But when forced to choose, give me the heart first. Frankly, it’s the smell of Sunny View that helps keep me humbly prepared for the lights of the platform.
“Thank you, Father, for a fruitful Resurrection Sunday on both ends of the spectrum.”