I don’t know about you, but this isn’t the first Lenten Season that my family has asked the question- What about Easter?
April 2014 my husband was taking steps towards his life long dream of being a pastor. There was a small church in need of a pastor looking to partner with our mega church by becoming a “Satellite Campus” or “Regional Campus” or whatever they are calling it now. If you are unfamiliar with this Mega Church phenomenon, basically this little church would become a “Campus church” and in so doing, watch the sermon from the main campus on a big screen every Sunday. Paul, my husband, would be the “Campus Pastor” mostly in charge of logistics and caring for the needs of the people. However in the midst of the “negotiations” with said little church, tragedy struck. Or should I say, tragedy was revealed. The lead pastor of our mega church was caught in an abusive relationship in which he took advantage of his position, power, and God given opportunity, to prey on women and use them for his sexual gratification. He had been our pastor for over two decades. We were devastated both personally and occupationally. What would happen to our church? How would this affect the proposed church merger? What church would want to partner with a church mired in scandal? And with Easter only a few weeks away, how would we fill the sports stadium we used annually for our Easter service without our celebrity pastor to draw the crowd? What about Easter??
Well, lucky for our church, we had connections. So Franklin Graham flew in to do our service. An opportune celebrity substitution. Crisis averted. The predatory celebrity pastor has already been removed, and the mega machine moved forward. Amazingly, the small pastor-less church still wanted to continue becoming a campus church. So our family wholeheartedly stepped into that role and my husband became a pastor.
Until March 2018, four years later, when our little church was sadly closed down. To this day, I still can’t really tell you why. On the surface, I guess the basic answer is money. The tithes didn’t support the costs of keeping it open. But this question and it’s complicated answer would require more than I will ever know. Maybe more than anyone knows. Nevertheless, our hearts were being torn in two. I had never in my life felt such pain. The repercussions, the lives crushed, the unanswered questions, the guilt, it felt unbearable. We had to tell the church. We had the plan for how this would unfold. We had talking points. But one question remained. What about Easter?
The decision was made to have our last service a couple weeks before Easter so that our congregants could spend their first Easter at the affliated Megachurch or whichever campus church they might switch to. Like all of the other decisions, I didn’t feel good about it. But I understood it. The fact that we wouldn’t even get one last Easter together felt unfair. Yet life moved on, my husband went on staff at the mega church, and we adjusted. However after tasting the sweetness of an intimate church family, we felt a great loss.
February 2019, a year later, we made the excruciating decision to leave our mega church for good. The details of why are for another day, but it was very clear that we did not belong there. What followed was a Lenten season like none I had ever experienced. Having been a part of that church since we were teens, and having served on every square inch of that property, it felt like we had been cut off from our very body. Everything we knew had changed. For the first time since birth, I had no church to go to and no desire to go to one. When scripture is manipulated into a weapon used to break your spirit, it is a monumental task not to lose your faith entirely. The thought of walking into a church building conjured up pain instead of peace, and we were faced with the same question: What about Easter?
That Easter we appeased our families and attended their small church full of kind people. But it wasn’t the same. After months of grieving what was lost, once again, our family adjusted and this time joined with our best friends, fellow church refugees, to meet weekly breaking bread, studying the apostles doctrine, and singing hymns and psalms together.
March 2020. Here we were again, asking that question: What about Easter? But this time, the whole Christian world is asking it. It is a question everyone who observes this holy day is forced to contemplate to a depth never before explored. Like every other experience I mentioned previously, we are sitting in a place of shock. Mourning loss. Wondering what happened. What went wrong? What was true? What did we miss? How could we have prepared for this and what will life look like moving forward?
It’s very likely that followers of Jesus had very similar questions when Jesus was crucified, and even after the resurrection.
There is so much uncertainty in front of us. So much grief at hand. I know that most are making it through the best way they know how. There are many that are working harder than ever, filling needs in their new role, finally acknowledged as an Essential Worker, yet with no time to process all that has been lost. There are others with too much time on their hands, but no energy or focus to do anything “productive” with that time. There are so many ways to make it through this pandemic to the other side, whatever awaits us there. There is so much we don’t know. But my prayer for you is that through all of this pain, there would be new healing in your life and in your heart. That the God of all comfort would comfort you and strengthen you. I pray that you would feel the hope of the resurrection in your hearts and that He would give you peace. As we wait for what is to come, and the uncertainty may feel like too much to bear, I would like to encourage you with a verse that has encouraged me.
Acts 1:7 “You don’t need to know the time of those events that only the Father controls. 8 But the Holy Spirit will come upon you and give you power. Then you will tell everyone about me in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and everywhere in the world.