I was in Target the other day and as I hurried past the greeting cards aisle to get to the laundry detergent, it came to me that it might be nice to send my parents and in-laws an Easter card. They do those sorts of things for me, but I rarely think that far in advance. Since it was the Saturday before Palm Sunday, I still had plenty of time to buy the cards, take them home, let them marinate on my counter for a few days, finally put stamps on them, let them marinate a little longer, and get them in the mail on time....just on time.
But it turns out they still won't be getting an Easter card from me.
I'll have you know I looked all over the "religious" section of the card display for an appropriate Easter card for true, dedicated, surrendered Jesus followers and couldn't find a single one. No, instead these religious cards all said things like this:
God made you special and unique,
just like the flower budding on the cherry trees.
And that's why I celebrate you this Easter.
Have a zippity do dah Easter
as you gather with family and friends
to celebrate the sweetness of spring.
Are you kidding me?
God loves you and I do too.
Weak, but at least it's true.
Come on folks! Someone needs to get some new "religious" greeting card writers who actually know what it is we're celebrating.
There was not a single, solitary card that mentioned anything...any... thing... about the resurrection of Jesus, His power over sin and death, the new life He gives us because of His sacrifice, or the hope we have because the risen Savior is coming again. Notta. Even the couple of cards that had "religious" pictures on them, including crosses and a rendering of Jesus, said nothing about the hope we have because of the Resurrection. They simply implied that Easter was a day to celebrate the goodness of life, and that might have something to do with God.
Needless to say, I did not buy my parents or in-laws a card. (And no, Mom and Dad, I didn't buy one elsewhere either. Maybe next year. Happy Easter!)
And then I found this article
by Cathy Lynn Grossman on the Internet today. Her story, "Relationships are the New Religion for Many" in USA Today
, I'm sad to say, explains it all.
It turns out that while 73% of Americans call themselves Christians, only 41% plan to attend any kind of Easter church service. The others, along with many who have nothing to do with Christianity, will be "celebrating" Easter, but not by reading any of the resurrection accounts from the Bible, singing songs about our "Victory in Jesus" or even offering a prayer of thanks for the hope of eternity.
Many "Christians" (do you hear the skepticism in those quotation marks?) will be celebrating the holiday of Easter, but not the holy day. They will place plastic eggs in high grass for their colorfully dressed children to hunt down. They will laud the visit of the Easter bunny and celebrate the loaded basket he left behind. They will enjoy a festive brunch of ham and deviled eggs and fruit salads and mimosas with their friends. And I suppose they will exchange cards with syrupy sweet messages about friendship, and they'll be decorated with bunnies and chicks.
I don't think most of those celebration props, if you will, are inherently wrong (except those blasted greeting cards!). My kids received baskets of candy on Easter morning and I've been in churches that hosted egg hunts for the community. But in the absence of any mention of Jesus Christ, His triumphant resurrection from death, and the unequivocal hope that resurrection gives us begs the question, "Why bother?"
At first, as I read Grossman's report of this transition in religious practices in our country, I was just sickened and angry. But as I've thought it over, I'm more sad and disheartened. I hurt for people who have replaced the most important relationship ever paid for for ones with fickle people. I ache for children who receive chocolate bunnies and marshmallow peeps in a basket, but don't get to hear about the Jesus who gathered children in His arms with loving abandon. I hurt for children who hunt for eggs hidden in grass, but never find Jesus and the new life He offers. I sorrow for families who desperately need hope for tomorrow, but have settled for a nice brunch with friends today.
And the more I think on this, the more I am sure we, the Christians who know better, are at fault. I'm reminded from 2nd Chronicles 7:14 that when a nation slips into idolatry and apathy God holds His own children accountable, not those who know no better.
So what can you and I do to set this straight? What can we do to rejuvenate a true celebration of Easter across our land? And, more importantly, what can you and I do to help people see that there is no substitute for a thriving relationship with Jesus Christ that results in wholehearted worship and commitment and spiritual discipline and surrender?
Well, here are a few of my thoughts, but they are just thoughts. And I'm still pondering this one, so these are just what I've come up with so far. But I would welcome, no, I beg for your take on this too.
- I need to make sure my family celebrates the true meaning of Easter. I need to teach my children, now in their young adult years, that Easter is celebrated by the reading of God's Word, the singing of praises to Him, and prayers of thanksgiving prayed from humbled, repentant, and redeemed hearts.
- I need to invite to church those who don't normally go to church. I can expose them to the true meaning of Easter -- the life, death, and resurrection of a loving Savior who prepares a place for us in heaven -- as they hear the gospel preached at my church.
- I can prepare my heart for Easter through quiet time with the Lord, soberly reflecting on the sacrifice made for me and gratefully acknowledging the resurrection power of my victorious Lord and Savior.
- I can post true and meaningful Easter sentiments on any social media I participate in, such as Facebook or Twitter.
- I should tell others, with joy and enthusiasm, why I celebrate Easter by going to church and worshiping with other believers.
- I need to give others a reason to celebrate Easter. I need to share the plan of salvation, the good news of the gospel whenever and wherever I have a chance. And I can begin by telling others what Jesus has done for me.
So what's your take on this shocking, but perhaps not-so-surprising, dilemma? How does this make you feel and do you have any suggestions for turning things around? Boy, I hope so...
Labels: church, Easter, religion in America