Ten years past when I left the First Baptist Church of Lebanon, one of things I grieved was the not being able to preach on Easter Sunday. God did have surprises for me though. For I have been able to preach on Easter at New Alpha Missionary in Burlington, and Grace River Church in Claremont. This year I am privileged to be with Village Baptist Church in Mount Holly, VT. It is a holy privilege and trust to proclaim that Jesus is Risen.
When I was a local church pastor, there were years when in preparing for Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday, I found that preparing meant having a good cry before God. It is difficult to explain a catharsis that is part repentance, part awe-struck, and part holy fear. The repentance part was all about being a sinner in the light of the Word become Flesh, to suffer, die and rise again on my behalf. In Bonhoeffer’s words, it is costly grace, because it cost God the life of his Son. The awe-struck part was, the overwhelming feeling of knowing that Jesus really, really rose from dead, and his death has brought me new life. I can be with this resurrected Son of God in this very moment as God gives me breath.
The fear part had to do with preaching on Maundy Thursday, Palm Sunday, and Easter morning. What if I say something that diminishes my Lord’s resurrection? What if I handled speaking of the Resurrection too lightly? What if I didn’t get the point across, that there is no reason for the Church to exist or myself to live a Christian life, if Jesus’ resurrection didn’t really happen? What if I just fumbled the proclamation that Jesus is Risen, and further failed to invite others to this risen Christ? Maybe it is the fear of holding the Holy on my sinful tongue.
But I think weaving the repentance, awe, and fear altogether in one and the same experience is a re-realized love for Jesus Christ. Next week, before preaching at Village Baptist, I look forward to sitting with Christ, and letting my tears flow and grasping their meaning once again.
“I am the resurrection and life. He who believes in me though he were dead yet shall he live. And he who lives and believes in me will never die.”