Whew....we had a record breaking crowd in worship yesterday. The pews were packed and extra chairs had to be placed behind the pews and in the overflow. This may be our largest attendance ever on Easter Sunday. Relatives and friends of relatives attended as well as many members whom we had not seen in quite a while. The choir sang the anthem they had been practicing for months and it turned out well. The sermon seemed to go well and not last exceedingly long. Holy Communion was served without a hitch and without running out of elements. Everyone was dressed nicely and seemed to enjoy the fellowship and the children's egg hunt that followed the service. It was wonderful to see the church full and running over.
The sermon yesterday was entitled, "Now What?" to reflect the idea--what do we do with the Easter message once Easter is over. Perhaps that question can challenge our lives daily but today it seems very relevant in asking "Now What?" in relation to what is important in regard to the daily practice of faith in life everyday. Don't get me wrong....I love having a full house on Easter Sunday. I always try to welcome warmly everyone who attends on Easter Sunday. A part of me, though, also longs to see the crowd attend on one of the other 51 Sundays of the year. Easter is the Grand Celebration of the Church. It is even more important in religious circles than Christmas Eve/Day. Easter has been part of worship longer than Christmas historically so it should be considered to be the high holy day of the Christian Year. Once Easter is past, however, does that mean that our commitment to our faith is over until this same day next year? Does it take a funeral, baptism, or wedding to bring us back to the church?
The Easter faith expressed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one that interjects itself into our lives on a daily basis. Each time we face a Good Friday experience in life....a death, breakup of a relationship, job loss, catastrophe because of an accident or natural disaster...God is present to reveal the resurrection to our lives to help us cope and receive new life even in the face of the worst that life can throw at us. Easter faith is not just faith for Easter Day but it is faith for living in a world that is less than certain.
This next Sunday is often called "Doubting Thomas Sunday" because the Gospel text is taken from John's Gospel where Thomas states that he will not believe in the resurrection of Jesus unless Jesus appears to him in the flesh. He desires positive proof that Jesus has been raised from the dead. Easter faith does not demand that we have no doubts but it helps to answer our doubts with possibilities that only God can supply. Thomas was not different than the other disciples. They had already had Jesus make a personal appearance to them when Thomas was out running errands. Thomas only wanted the same confirmation that they had received. He wanted Jesus to recognize him in the same way that he had recognized the other disciples and to greet him in his resurrection body.
Doubters are always welcomed in faith circles. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that humans must be free from doubt before coming to be part of the faith community. It instead gives us many examples of how the Church began to organize around the Resurrection of Jesus and get busy providing for the needs of the many with the resources of all. Doubters are welcome to be part of the life of the Church and to help make coffee, arrange tables, plan meetings, and contribute their talents to the common good that is needed so that the Church can continue to grow and thrive. Doubters are part of who we all are for even those whom may think they are the most faithful must admit that there are times when they want to throw in the towel and let someone else carry the load for a change. And, believe it or not, the day after Easter is one of the days that they may think about it. Instead, once they get some rest and have some time away they will be much better and ready to accept the next challenge that is ahead of them.
"Easter People, Raise Your Voices, sounds of heaven in earth should ring. Christ has brought us heaven's choices; heavenly music, let it ring. Alleluia, alleluia, Easter People, let us sing."