“So don’t ever worry by saying, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ because it is the unbelievers who are eager for all those things.” Matthew 6:31-33
Lately I’ve been listening to a local Christian radio station on my drive to work in the morning. I’m not sure why I keep doing it; it’s terrible.
I definitely enjoy contemporary Christian music (most of it), but the individuals on this radio station’s morning show drive me up a wall. Despite how terribly judgmental this makes me sound, I believe the commentary to be some of the most fabricated optimism I’ve ever heard. Every morning it sounds like they are having the best day of their lives. I wouldn’t mind if they actually were having the best day of their lives, but for example, when discussing the tragic ISIS attacks in Belgium yesterday, I think it’s appropriate to let up on the “smiling voices” effort and sound a bit more somber. There’s nothing more hurtful to hurting people then to have someone smiling tell them “It’s all going to be okay!” It probably will be; but not today. Today it hurts.
My tipping point came when the lady host on the show commented on how Easter is less than a week away:
“Aren’t you excited to celebrate what we believe!?! I can’t wait to try this honey-glazed ham recipe I just got from my grandmother…”
I wish there had been some kind of pause or comment between the two statements. Unfortunately I’m not writing it that way for dramatic effect; it was literally one breath. A ping of conviction came quickly though– I think most of us do get more excited for Easter dinner than for Easter service. Besides, who wants to go to church service when you have to swim through all those faces you’ve never seen before just to find another church member?
But church service isn’t really the point of it all, is it? This special day finds its origins in the Christian feast of Passover. Easter is intended as a time to reflect, with deep gratitude and praise, on the resurrection of Jesus. It’s the celebration of the ultimate (and final) sacrifice of the Passover lamb. For the believer in God’s grace, this seminal event should be the highlight of one’s year. It should be.
But I’m ready for grandma’s honey glazed ham. . . I really am . . . Sam I am.
It’s not that I think God cares if we’re excited for a annual dinner/feast in his Son’s honor–especially if it’s shared with family, friends, and other believers–it’s that I’m afraid we may have started using his Son’s death as another reason to feast. I’m as much a product of this American culture as anyone I know. Jesus words, “For life is more than food…” is a daily struggle for me. Honestly. And if American Christians are honest, I think we have a problem with leaving food out of our meetings, celebrations, church gatherings, and theological focus in general.
Don’t believe me? When’s the last time you gathered with “church friends” for prayer or study and there wasn’t food involved in some manner?
Believe it or not, my point isn’t meant to be about food. And I don’t want to knock having food when we gather as the scattered church. Rather, it’s a question of focus, and the propensity of our modern church culture to lose the heart of our faith in the extras we’ve thrown in with it. I’m reminded of the parable of the sower and Jesus’s words about certain types of people–those who will initially believe in Him, and then turn away:
And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. (Mark 4: 18-19 )
If we genuinely attempt to narrow-in on what the blood of Jesus has covered in our own life, then a yearly reminder of the forgiveness, grace, and love we’ve been given can be a powerful event. Still, the human mind is fragile. It can easily be conditioned to respond to our instincts. What if —hear me now–what if we talk about Jesus but we include candy, fictitious bunnies, baskets filled with gifts to each other, and feasts of ham? How many years of this ritual mis-focus before the body, mind, and heart look forward to the rewards of the day rather than the rewards of eternity?