“What is Easter?” Is Not a Silly Question

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Back in my seminary days, I was a student grader for an entry level doctrine class. In the class, students were assigned a section of reading and then asked to summarize the reading in one typed page. Condensing hundreds of pages of reading into one page was a daunting task. The trick to getting full credit on these assignments was including all the key theological terms in the reading AND defining them. I marked off so many of these summaries when students failed to define the basics. A lot of people would include a sentence like this: “Jesus died and three days later was the Resurrection.” They’d move on to the next topic without ever saying what the Resurrection was.

So, if I get to offer you one piece of advice about planning your worship service for this Easter Sunday, it’s this: Define it. You may think I’m crazy. Everyone knows what Easter is all about. We all know what Resurrection means. But I don’t think that’s the case. Plus, this is the crucial part of our story. Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins, but he didn’t stay dead! He defeated death and came back to life! Without this chapter of the story there’s no resolution, no hope. This is the best part of the story and if you have trouble defining it, pull your doctrine textbook back out and reread this section. Just kidding. Ok, I’m not really kidding at all!

Another reason to intentionally define Easter is you’re likely to have guests on that Sunday. I would acknowledge guests, but not in a way that singles them out. In our service we welcome guests by saying something like this: “Welcome to all our guests this morning. Maybe you haven’t been to church in a long time or maybe you came because someone, a neighbor or family member invited you and promised you lunch afterward. No matter the reason you’re here, we hope you feel welcome. Today is Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate the reality that Jesus rose from the dead. You could not have picked a better day to come. We’re so glad you’re here!”

How should you define Easter? This year we are working on a worship order that will weave scripture readings and songs. Our main campus hosts a Good Friday service, but many of the people who attend the offsite service where I help plan worship, may not be in attendance on Good Friday. For this reason, we’ll open our service with scripture and a song briefly telling the Good Friday story so that we can set the context for the Resurrection. (We’ll sing “My Victory “ by Crowder.) After setting up the context, we’ll read one of the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection and then sing a song that tells the same story. (A song we’ve used several times in the past is “Christ is Risen” by Matt Maher. This year we are also learning “O Praise the Name” by Hillsong. “In Christ Alone” is also a great one.)

Visually, we’re defining Easter with color and light. Our worship space has been dark for Lent, with lot’s of purples and grays. But for Easter we’re bringing out reds, yellows, oranges, and bright greens. We’ll have a cross covered in flowers, a sign that Easter means life after death.

Plan your best for Easter. Practice the music, choose the scripture readings and songs with great intention. Create a visual representation of life. In all you do, don’t forget what Easter means. Define this day for your people and in doing so you’ll point them to a risen, living Jesus. He’s what it’s all about.

Want to listen to the songs listed above? Check out these links.

http://www.worshiptogether.com/songs/my-victory-passion

http://www.worshiptogether.com/songs/christ-is-risen

http://www.worshiptogether.com/songs/o-praise-the-name-anastasis

http://www.worshiptogether.com/songs/in-christ-alone

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Emily lives in Long Beach, Mississippi with her husband, Ben, and their three kids, Sadie, Joe, and Lizzie. Together they serve at The Well, an offsite service of First United Methodist Church in Long Beach. Ben is the pastor for The Well. Emily volunteers as the leader for the Worship Planning Team and helps with the spiritual formation of The Well's band. Emily graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary in 2006. She loves learning more about planning and leading people in worship. When she's not working on something for The Well, Emily's probably telling her kids stories about growing up in Kentucky. You can find her on Twitter (@emilyhbarlow) but she mostly live tweets University of Kentucky basketball games.

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