Faith Matters: Easter should be a time for the unexpected

By BRETT SHERWOOD

Pastor, Faith Church

Published: 04-08-2023 6:00 AM

If you belong to a church in any capacity, you’re already prepared for tomorrow. The most pastel of your Sunday finest are ironed and laid out and your children’s baskets wait by the door, not to be forgotten in the mad dash to worship. Tomorrow is the church’s Super Bowl, the main event, and not one of us doesn’t see it coming.

Except, the whole point of Easter is no one saw it coming. No one waving palm fronds on Sunday expected a cross on Friday. No one weeping over a body expected an empty grave. And in the original April Fool’s prank, all of the evil, sin and death of this world could never have expected the reversal of resurrection. As you hear the familiar gospel story in the comfort of your familiar pews, remember a time when absolutely no one was prepared for it at all.

Even in shrinking, post-COVID congregations, Christians still gather in big numbers for the expectation of Easter. And it is indeed a joy to witness people gather over what Christ has done, but perhaps the real joy is in the potential of our response. Jesus played a joke on death, smuggling away the victory evil surely thought it seized, and the audacity and unpredictability of it should inspire the most familiar of reactions from us: laughter. We should laugh with relief, hope, joy — a joker/savior pulled one over on our mortal enemy — but instead, we’ve heard the punchline so many years in a row the returns are diminishing. Christ’s story loses its transformative power when we make it so routine.

And so in our congregation, we seek to restore the unexpected mystery of Easter through a less familiar tradition. Next week, when the pastels are in the laundry, the baskets left with half-melted chocolates, and you’re all churched-out from the big day, maybe the unexpected will happen; you’ll still find yourself yearning for that joyful response of laughter. And on the Sunday after Easter, when the congregations shrink again, you’ll find yourself at Faith Church for Holy Humor Sunday. It is our response to Easter, our laugh at Christ’s joke. We sing silly songs, play pranks on each other and generally act like joyful little children, because frankly, how else could we behave in the unexpected light of resurrection?

This is a service I look forward to every year, an opportunity for our church to show our community that in a world of Christians who are too easily offended and take themselves too seriously, there are still genuine Christ-followers with the humility to laugh because Jesus fooled us, too. It becomes an invitation to further joy and wonder in life, an acceptance that people of faith live with more questions than answers and more hope than certainty, and an opportunity to serve a world that God truly loves. Traditions like this are helping our church become a more welcoming and inclusive space and our congregation to be challenged by how far-reaching God’s grace actually is.

I pray that the familiar old story catches you in unexpected ways tomorrow. I hope you see Christ’s love like you never have before. But if you are still searching for that joy, I invite you on April 16 to enjoy a laugh with/at us for Holy Humor Sunday.

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Faith Church, on Silver Street in Greenfield, hosts Growth Group discussion at 9 a.m. and sanctuary worship at 10 a.m. every Sunday as well as Addiction Recovery Tuesdays at 6 p.m. and Bible Study Wednesdays at 6 p.m.

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