Worth Readingby Leslie H. Young
"Churches join to follow Jesus' footsteps" reads the headlines of one local newspaper: by Les Young
To say that the secular media has been full of reports concerning the events and celebrations of Holy Week would be a misstatement. Oh, there has been an article here and another one there. Please understand, my aim here is not to criticize the secular media for incomplete or inaccurate reporting, nor is it my intent to lampoon churches for bringing secular (perhaps even pagan) rituals into their celebrations of this season. It is not the job of the secular media to preach the Gospel; that mission was given to the church (Matthew 28:19-20). And who am I to say when a church has crossed the line where the bait once used to fish for men has become an object of worship by means of tradition?
Valerie Schultz, blogging in the Bakersfield Californian, tells of a conversation she overheard recently in a local mall. "Now that the kids are gone," one woman said, "Easter hardly matters." "I know what you mean. My kids are too big for baskets. I don't even dye eggs anymore," said her companion without blinking. It is a "no-brainer" that bunnies and colored eggs have nothing to do with the real meaning of Easter, and the events that led up to it. To some extent, the most important event in history has been hijacked by Madison Avenue and K-Mart. To a lesser extent, but perhaps more dangerous, the real meaning has been hijacked by the church as well.
On this day in history, our president, who claims to be a Christian, gave his Easter Address. While he mentioned the Jewish observance of Passover, and the fact that he and his family, will join other Christians around the world in marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So far, so good, but as happens all too often in the church pulpit, so it is with the president's bully pulpit: essential truths are left out and erroneous elements are mixed in. The president went on, trying to build unity between "Jews and Christians, Muslims and Hindus, believers and non=believers alike." "On this weekend, let us hold fast to those aspirations we hold in common as brothers and sisters, as members of the same family - the family of man," he said. For the complete address, go to www.whitehouse.gov
A biblical (third lens) perspective: The commercialization of Easter is best understood by looking at one of the most frequently Scriptures in the Bible. "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:10) Come to think of it, that may be a reason for watering down the Gospel in the churches, trying to appeal to the masses. Nickles and noses are important to church business to. But are they important to God - I mean important enough to change the message just for the sake of a big following. The answer to that is a resounding "No!"
Just think of some of the things Jesus said. "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are MANY who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are FEW who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14). (emphasis is mine). I can still remember as a kid being deeply moved by black and white depictions of Jesus' death and resurrection, but I never had any idea why it was necessary, and what would be involved in really partaking of its benefits. Again, the words of Jesus: "...Who is My mother and who are My brothers?....For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:48, 50) Without being brought into the family of God by accepting the grace of Jesus' death and resurrection for us, we are still dead in sins and trespasses and are of our father, the devil. (Ephesians 2:1-9; John8:44). No matter what the common aspirations are of the family of man, apart from Christ, man is doomed, and no government, no religion, no economic policy can save him.
The words of Paul: "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached (i.e., don't let it be replaced by some other gospel or tradition) to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living..." (1 Corinthians 15:1-6) Christ died for our sins. He died in our place, receiving the just punishment that each of us deserves. This is great news, but it would be nothing more than a warm sentiment if He were not raised again on the third day. Paul goes on to say: "...if Christ has not been raised your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." (1 Corinthians 15:17)
Tomorrow morning you may hear people greeting one another with the proclamation, "Christ is Risen!" followed by the response, "He is risen indeed!" This comes from "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep." (1 Corinthians 15:20) Let us not get lulled into thinking that Easter is just a cute holiday to be celebrated with bunnies, colored eggs, and chocolate crosses. Let us not get lulled into thinking that the various religious beliefs don't matter because we are all just part of the brotherhood of men, with the same hopes and dreams. Good Friday (which should be renamed Good Wednesday or Thursday - but that's another story) happened because sin is awful and demanded an awful price. Easter, (better labeled as Resurrection Sunday - a fixed day, not one that can vary by almost 30 days - but that's another story) happened to validate what happened on Good Friday. Those who believe are of the family of God, and are on the narrow road to life. Those who don't..........