Alleluia! Once again, it is finally Easter! Pastors around the globe are still catching up on lost sleep from Holy Week, but we can also appreciate the joy that comes with the season of Easter. While we are in the “business” of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ all year, the seven weeks of Eastertide is a time to reflect on the good news that death did not have the last word and breathe in the new life that God offers. While Lent was about self-examination and reflection, Easter is a celebration of resurrection and abundant life. (And we get to celebrate Easter up to the fiftieth day, Pentecost, when we rejoice in the coming of the Holy Spirit.)
So take a deep breath of the new life in Christ, and let’s celebrate! Let’s recognize the times in our churches when God surprises us with new life, shows up to offer us peace, and brings joy to our day. Because while serving a church can be demanding, exhausting, and challenging, there is a reason we stick with this mysterious and holy calling. Let’s share the good news of serving a church.
As a pastor, I find joy and delight when:
- Children share deep insights and ask theological questions. A recent gem from a 4th grader: “Love is what we need to learn even if you think you already know it.” A recent question from a 3rd grader: “If God created everyone and everything, who created God?” On Ash Wednesday this year, I was amazed when a 2nd grader asked: “Are we going to do the tears this year?” She remembered that last year we had written on paper tears and offered them to God. I also smiled when I asked the children on Easter Sunday what “Alleluia” meant, and one small boy called out, “giving glory to God.”
- Church members invite me into their everyday lives. It is a great privilege when someone feels safe enough to be vulnerable and share his/her life story with me. I am amazed by the deep faith of some church members who have experienced sharp blows in their lives and yet they are able to point to God’s presence with them; they are able to live an abundant life because they recognize God has never given up on them. The stories they share are insightful and call me to a deeper faith. What a gift. I also received an invitation from a 3rd grader this year to serve as her running buddy for an upcoming event. It’s true joy to be able to do this with her.
- I stay in the sanctuary for a few minutes after worship before having coffee. It’s almost a secret of mine. After worship, I recess to the narthex and greet church members as they leave the sanctuary. But instead of going directly upstairs for coffee and fellowship, I head back into the sanctuary to talk to the people who have lingered. Almost always, these are senior church members. There is one man in particular who stays in “his” pew for a while, and I try to talk to him every time he is present. He always says to me, “You do good work.” There are a handful of women who stay and talk near the front of the sanctuary, and they often call me over to tell me something. They also comment, very lovingly, on my heels or painted toe nails. These are holy and sacred moments.
- Youth burst with energy, creativity, imagination, and excitement. There are countless moments when the youth fill my heart with joy. Working on Youth Sunday liturgy, I remember going over to check on a group; they were engrossed in the process and almost done writing a beautiful prayer. Recently, we did an impromptu acting out of the sheep and the goats story in Matthew 25; I narrated the story while the youth acted it out. They sat on stools, knelt on the floor, laid on the couch, grabbed necessary props, and brought all the drama. One of our youth designed a new logo for our children’s ministry. One youth wrote a letter to the Clerk of Session with new ideas to face a budget challenge.
- I am able to take risks and try new things. I love thinking outside the box when it comes to worship and other church gatherings. In the hour of worship, what can we offer to God other than money? How can we use our hands and feet to worship? How can we interact differently with one another? These are questions I get to explore and answer in different ways. Getting to exercise my brain, think creatively, and use my imagination are everyday miracles from God.
Almost every day in this mysterious and holy calling is different, and that is worth celebrating too. So now, I’d love to hear from you. In your church, what gives you new life or brings you joy?