Confession: I used to dislike Super Bowl parties. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the elements involved: I like football and I like people. It wasn’t even that the occasion itself held little joy for this long-suffering Philadelphia Eagles fan. (Until this year!)
I just wasn’t the biggest fan of bringing together football and people for the biggest game of the year. I was “that guy” who lacked the patience to sit in a room with a bunch of people who had no clue about the sport and were more excited about things like munchies and commercials than anything else. My inner football-Pharisee would be on high alert judging Super Bowl-only fans about their ignorance outwardly displayed. I really had little patience for the whole thing.
However, my approach to Super Bowl parties has changed. And it’s because of Easter Sunday worship.
Resurrection Sunday is the most glorious celebration we have in the Christian Church. There is nothing more joyous than praising the name of the Savior who has conquered sin and death. And I love how many churches make intentional efforts at Easter to invite in those who may not normally be in church.
But I’ve also noticed that some Christians can get a little frustrated at these Easter attenders. People we never see are suddenly taking up all the parking. Regular attenders’ usual seats are occupied by these random strangers. The flow of worship is a little off because so many are not familiar with the rhythms and rituals of our order of service. Maybe there’s a little annoyance at all the extra bells and whistles that seem to be pulled out for this day to draw in these twice a year folks at the expense of those faithfully present week and after week.
If we’re honest, there can be a little judgment going on toward these folks who may not be back the following Sunday, at least until the next Christmas Eve. Some in the church may even shake their heads at the notion that someone would identify as a Christian but only show up for church a couple times a year.
I am a passionate about teaching our people how to value the expression of corporate worship. It’s a good thing when our churches learn the importance of honoring God and one another by gathering together to worship the Lord. We should take those efforts seriously.
But approaching Easter Sunday is also a wonderful opportunity to remind our people of the missional call we have been given to be a light to those in darkness. And if even one person who would not normally attend our services is present on Easter, that is something to be celebrated! Yes, their motivations for being there may not be fully centered on God. They may already have plans for what will be happening the following Sunday that have nothing to do with your church. The reality is many of our Easter-only attenders may not be back; but it’s a step on the journey.
I’ve learned that for some football fans, Super Bowl parties are where they first started to gain an appreciation for the sport. They didn’t come in with any knowledge of football; but, how would we expect them to if they didn’t grow up with it? However, though they may have initially been drawn in at the prospects of a fun event to be shared with others, many really encounter football for the first time and grow to become genuine fans. Of course, the next game some of them will watch will be next year’s Super Bowl and its accompanying spread and commercials. But some will become real fans—especially if it’s a great game.
I try to approach Easter service in a similar way. Many who wouldn’t normally attend are probably there for reasons other than a deep desire to honor God. But it’s ok because they are there. And the more we can prepare our regular people for that, the better equipped they will be to approach the occasion with a sense of purpose and compassion. Because, yes, things may be a little more uncomfortable, crowded, and awkward for the regular member of the church. But it’s nothing compared to the feelings that the Easter guest will be experiencing as he has taken a step of faith to be in a new setting with all of these religious people.
As we train our people to recognize these things, may we pray that though it’s the pomp and cultural nature of Easter that may bring people in, the power of God would use that to bring these wanderers home. Let us pray that we would make so much of God that the Easter guest would be given a glimpse of glory.
It’s cool to see people become fans of a game while attending a party. I like football and I enjoy seeing others become fans. But how much more the thought of some taking steps on the journey of life in following the King of this universe and experiencing the love of God as I do? Let’s pray that it may even begin for some this Easter Sunday.
Featured image credit, edited.