The hardest thing, for pastors, is keeping it from becoming anticlimactic. Careful and creative planning for Holy Week services, making sure they are filled with meaning and purpose, takes everything we have.
Then, there is Easter Sunday. What does one say that has not been said (and said repeatedly for 2000 years)? How do you write that sermon? What does one do that has not been done before? How do you plan that service? What is one to do after the “high holy days” of Holy Week?
Of course, it is worse on the Second Sunday of Easter, but I digress.
Perhaps, this anticlimactic nature of things is as it should be. The Gospel writers even had this problem. They spent whole chapters describing the events of Thursday night and Friday; only verses telling of Sunday morning. None of the verses, by the way, describes how it happened, simply that it happened.
So, again, perhaps that’s as it should be. A baby is born and, other than the family and a few friends, the world hardly notices. A glance is exchanged as a couple meets, a whole history is set in motion, but no one notices really other than the couple. A life comes to its close in an ICU unit and space is made for the next patient while a few grieve and move toward the funeral home where another grieving family moves on and makes way. Perhaps the most significant, life-altering events happen with little notice.
And perhaps we should have known that already. God speaks to a nomadic shepherd in Ur and tells him, “Abram, time to move on.” He goes and is missed by few, his departure little noted. Who knew? God appears on a mountain to a fugitive from Egyptian justice who then sets a band of slaves free. The Egyptians find the event so insignificant that they don’t record it anywhere in their history. Who knew? God sent an angel to a young woman in Nazareth with the word that she will have a child and, other than a fiancée and a cousin, no one seems to pay much attention. Who knew?
Perhaps there is an almost anticlimactic moment in the work of grace. Perhaps that is how and when God works best, brings resurrection – when no one is paying attention, where no one expects it, when the world is through with its splash and glitter, when violence and power are finally done. Perhaps it is then that the risen Christ will appear and we will think him simply to be the gardener. Or perhaps he joins us for a Sunday afternoon stroll and we recognize him in the breaking of bread. Or maybe he will just meet us on the road with a simple greeting.
Perhaps….. After all, who knew?
See you Sunday as we celebrate the resurrection.
Grace and peace.
“Thank You in Advance”
One of my pet peeves (and I have many – too many probably but that’s another article) is the use of the phrase “Thank you in advance.” (And yes, I know some people have a pet peeve about authors who overuse parenthetical comments…but I digress).
Back to “Thank you in advance.” How can you do that? How can you thank someone for something they’ve neither done nor yet agreed to do without the “thank you in advance” being coercive and manipulative? You can’t, of course, which is the user’s intent – to guilt you into doing something by thanking you for doing it while asking you to do it.
I especially disregard fund raising requests that come that way. From colleges (I had a long conversation once with a development officer about why I thought that was a counterproductive phrase), from churches, from not-for-profits. It doesn’t matter. Occasionally, I will hold my nose and respond to an organization I really care about if they use the phrase, but grudgingly. It just feels….wrong.
“Thank you” is always a responsive phrase. Someone has done something – something kind or good or thoughtful – and in response you say “thank you.” You don’t anticipate or expect the kindness. You respond to it.
So it is in our spiritual life. We don’t believe either that God owes us anything or that we can coerce God’s goodness (as in “Dear God, please give me a new car for Christmas. Thank you in advance. Amen.”) God gives to us, graces us, blesses us. We do nothing to earn it or deserve it. It comes to us as a gift. Salvation comes to us as a gift. New life comes to us as a gift. Jesus comes to us as a gift.
The trick is in being sure to say “thank you” once you recognize the gift. To live appropriately responsively. To say “thank you” when you should. Thus endeth the lesson. Thank you in advance for paying attention.
Grace and peace to you.