Something that I absolutely love experiencing is when I’m able to revisit a story that I’ve heard or read a thousand times previously, and somehow manage to find something new in it. That happened to me at church yesterday.
I’ve gone to church all my life, meaning that, at the very least, I’ve heard the story of Easter 32 times by this point. (In fact, it’s far more than that, by the time you count all the sunrise services I’ve attended as well, plus the various passion plays and cantatas I’ve seen, the number of performances of Godspell my wife has dragged me into, etc. Oh- and the fact that the events of Easter are literally the very crux of my belief system.) And yet, one simple thing from yesterday’s service, which I had never even considered before, struck me.
The way the pastor was dressed. Yes, he was wearing the traditional dress pants and button-up shirt that one would fully expect to find a pastor wearing on a Sunday morning. But rather than a suit jacket, he was wearing a windbreaker. He took the majority of his sermon to get to why he was wearing a windbreaker in church, and his reasoning was pretty simple. But still, this thought struck me pretty hard.
Why- on every Sunday morning, but particularly on Easter morning- do we dress as though we were going to Jesus’ funeral? Isn’t the whole point of the Easter story that on the third day, the two Marys went to the tomb, found it empty, and (so spurred on by the angel) quite literally ran back to tell the disciples? Why do we expect our Easter services to be somber, thoughtful affairs? There’s no somber tone, there’s no thoughtfulness- it’s simply running out and telling people, “Hey- you know all that stuff that Jesus said that sounded absolutely crazy? Turns out, it’s true, and yeah- he still wants you to go meet up with him!”
For me, dressing up for church has never really been a thing. From the time I was allowed to have my own say in what I wore to church, whenever I could get away with it, I was a t-shirt and jeans kinda guy. In my head, God wants us exactly as we are- we’re not supposed to be trying to fix whatever is wrong with us so that we can be worthy of His love. It’s something He wants to work with us to fix. And I don’t figure he’s too terribly concerned if we show up on Sunday wearing a comfy pair of jeans and our favorite t-shirt (even if it happens to be a Sonic the Hedgehog t-shirt, and you always make the same lame joke by clipping your nametag onto Sonic’s ear)- but rather He’s concerned that we’re still letting Him take control of all that crap we keep screwing up our lives with. ”But if I can just control this, than God doesn’t have to know about it. And I won’t have to bother Him with it, and He can deal with all the more important stuff.” As much as it strains our brains to try and figure out, not only does God know about all that stuff, whether you tell Him or not, but there’s nothing more important to Him than trying to help each of us with our “petty little problems that are so much less important than everything else going on in the world”. (Dude- this is the guy [for lack of a better word] that exists on multiple planes of existence simultaneously. This is a guy that has come up with the most brilliant stuff- stuff that made Einstein pretty much just shrug his shoulders and said “I dunno.” He’s the ultimate mathematician, and yet He cares for us. I don’t think we can even begin to argue with that until we can wrap our minds around the specifics of how the universe work, and the potential of multiple realities existing simultaneously.)
But I’m going wildly off-track here: For as long as I could get away with it, I was a t-shirt and jeans kinda guy. Something about dressing differently for church than I would anywhere else always seemed kind of fake to me. I understand that everyone has different convictions, and a lot of people probably feel like it’s disrespectful to wear anything but the absolute best to church on Sunday. But that’s not me. I can’t claim to be better than anyone else, and as I said, I know everyone has different convictions. I just have never felt like dressing up for church was a show of respect. And the pastor wearing a windbreaker sort of codified that for me.
Why do we treat Easter Sunday like it’s Jesus’ funeral? We get all shinied up, and go to the church. We have some light, polite small talk and maybe some coffee while we’re waiting for the service to begin. Some of the people there are people we see on a regular basis, and some are people we only see occasionally. Maybe there’s one or two that kinda knew this Jesus guy a little bit, but felt compelled to come anyway. We go in, sit quietly while the preacher says some words about this guy we all knew, and we all think about how painful that death must have been. After a prayer, we all go out to lunch (some of us going together, some people maybe not), and then we all go our separate ways.
Why aren’t we treating Easter as a celebration of life, rather than a “celebration of life”? Why aren’t we following the 2 Marys’ examples? Why aren’t we telling everybody about this crazy thing that just happened? Why aren’t we ready to go for a run after finding the empty tomb?