My friend Dave popped his head into my office the other day and said, “Super bowl Sunday coming up!” Now, if that is confusing to you, let me explain. This Sunday is Easter. Hopefully that isn’t a total surprise. And Easter, for Christians, is our big day. It is when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. It is the victory over death. It is the sine qua non-without which nothing. As Paul says, “And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.”
But it is more than just the spiritual significance that gives the day its gravity. It is one of the three big days for church attendance. I’m not sure if it is #1, but it might be (Mother’s Day and Christmas Eve are close). It is a day when many will concede to come to church, even if it isn’t their normal thing. Often it is a gift to their mom. Or maybe it is a bit of nostalgic duty. Whatever the case, there are always lots of new faces on Easter morning.
Every year, as I prepare the message for Sunday, I find myself feeling a bit anxious. To whom do I preach? The regular attender, there to celebrate the heart of the gospel message about Jesus? The inquisitive guest, listening cautiously? The reluctant and guarded ones, skeptical and needing convincing? My heart goes out to all three. But honestly, it goes mostly to the skeptic.
I think it is because I relate. I struggle with my own forms of doubt. I’ve always been intellectually cautious, although curious. I love ideas, but I take some convincing. I withdraw when I feel the pressure of the group. I hate being coerced.
I see you skeptics, your guard up and your game faces on. I want you to know you’re safe. Because I’m not going to try to get you to commit to something you don’t believe. What good is that? I’m also not going to try to get you to admit you’re wrong and I’m right. That usually just pushes people away. I know it does me.
What I will do is to try to hold out to you something that I have found deeply moving and healing in my own life. I will do my best to show you a truth I find so beautiful. And we will follow that beauty to the goodness that it rests on. And behind that the truth that can set us free. In other words, we will look for transcendence. A truth that pierces in to the darkness of this world, that exposes where we are sick, and brings healing to our hearts.
Because resurrection is what we need. It is what our hearts long for. It is the power that promises us what we fear to hope for, that all things are being made new. That abundant life is the ultimate outcome. And that, even in a world with so much brokenness and distortion, this hope is already at work. In simple acts of love and generosity. In compassion and forgiveness. In restoration. In acts of selflessness and grace.
This is what we celebrate on Easter. It is what gives our lives meaning and hope. And it is there for all who believe. Even the skeptic, who can only muster the smallest bit of faith. Because just a little bit seems to be enough. Jesus tells the father pleading for the healing of his sick son that anything is possible to those who believe. The father’s response… “I do believe. Help my unbelief.” And that is adequate. The boy is healed. The man’s faith is confirmed.
So, skeptic, I want you to know that this Sunday you are welcome. You are the guest of honor. Unbelief and all. No pressure, I promise. And maybe, just maybe, you will receive something transcendent. Something good, and true, and beautiful.