Will Willmon summed up the feeling that many in ministry can feel in his book, Undone by Easter. He described this feeling as what happens when serving in ministry becomes a grind, a repetition, a constant pressure to be as perfect as the savior those in ministry are talking about.
Many feel it on the afternoons of Easter. There’s always a pressure to go bigger and better than previous years. There’s a pressure to do and say something that’s never been said before about Easter (Think about the impossibility of that task!)
This feeling of being undone can come at the conclusion of Holy Week, a week of multiple worship services (many of which are only attended by a small percentage of membership). Add on top of that the activities of Easter Sunday — sunrise services, maybe even multiple worship services.
“Being undone” comes with a feeling of emptiness. It’s not the emptiness that one can feel after giving a sermon and feeling you have been “poured out.” It’s the feeling that comes when a piece of your soul feels empty, when the things said about God smack into the reality and pragmatism of life.
“Being undone” comes after a day spent in worship, attempting to tell the story of the greatest reset in the history of creation. And at the same time, one can battle another “god” that has arrived uninvited — the god of consumerism and culture. And, that god sounds something like this: What happened to all the people? Why are there less people here for this Easter than last year? Why isn’t the offering what it used to be? Why didn’t we sing the song we always sing on Easter? You weren’t loud enough in your sermon, energetic enough. We should’ve had a Friday service. We should’ve done something different on Maundy Thursday. Why is that person here today… or Why isn’t that person here today?
Granted, it’s not everyone in the church saying it, but it will be enough to sting. In a sense, to borrow the phrase, when that happens, we, the church, are undone by Easter.
So maybe that is why for me, today, I’m hitting my own Easter reset. Maybe it’s because I need it. Maybe it’s because this will speak to me and I’m just sharing with you the thinking process I’m feeling.
Truthfully, this is a big reason that I’m so happy that the launch of this site comes so close to Easter. Reigniting our life, experiencing a reset, feeling renewed and redeemed are all impossible without, somehow, someway, reconciling yourself to the reset of Easter.
Not a new idea
The idea of a reset isn’t something new or something we have created. God has been doing them since creation. There was a reset after the Garden of Eden. Resets with Noah and the flood. Resets with kings and exile and homecomings. God hit the reset button numerous times for his children in the Old Testament, but the reset never lasted. Things would get better for a while and then start to slowly spiral back down again.
But this time, God opted for the single biggest reset ever known, one that had been thousands of years in the making. It starts with a baby entering the world, living for 3o-plus years among the very people God is seeking to help. It leads to three years of ministry, a collection of misfit disciples and followers and a lot of misunderstanding about what a Messiah/savior is really supposed to do.
And Jesus accepted the task to lay the groundwork for that reset. He shared the news with his followers. Some accepted it and continued to follow and others said, “Not for me.” Jesus’ version of that reset was enough to threaten the religious leaders and everything they had taught and learned about God.
The funny thing is that Jesus didn’t pass the news of this reset on to the usual suspects. Jesus was most often talking to those at the margins of the world, to the poor, to the sick, the wounded, the hurting, the common everyday sinners.
Prayer is required
This reset involved so much prayer. It was the desperate prayer that Jesus prays in the garden on the night of his arrest. It’s the prayer of “not my will, but your will, God.” It’s a prayer for the world, for his followers and for all of us who would come after.
And this reset wasn’t clean. It was downright gritty and it was bloody. It involved pain and sacrifice. For a brief period of time, the reset of Easter even seemed to undo what Jesus had been teaching to his disciples As they scattered after the events of Holy Thursday and Good Friday and the grieving and pain of Saturday, maybe they were asking questions. It could’ve been questions such as “Is this all there is? What Jesus really telling us the truth? Was following Jesus worth it?”
It’s a reset that takes one of the worst devices of torture — the Roman cross — and redeems it into the greatest of faith symbols.
This reset was epic. It was universe changing and mind blowing. It was something that had never been done before and doesn’t have to be repeated. That empty tomb on Easter morning revealed a reset that has been changing lives in generation after generation. You can see evidence of that reset in others around you, in your own life.
Maybe the epic nature was captured in the words of a song decades ago: “It is no secret what God can do. What he’s done for others, he’ll do for you.”
But don’t be mistaken: This reset is controversial. Many believe it and some do not. Following his resurrection, Jesus will give his closest group of followers what we call the Great Commission (Go into the world, make disciples). The lead-in to the Great Commission sums it up — “and some doubted.” Thomas, one of Jesus disciples, doubted until he could see it for himself.
And there are still those who haven’t seen it for themselves: Those who think it is just another story, something that didn’t happen. Paul summed it up in his writing to the churches at Corinth this way: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
But God didn’t ask for permission to reset creation. God took care of it for us.
Easter resets our lives.
Maybe that thought alone can give us something. Maybe it speaks to those who feel undone by Easter, or even to those who have never felt anything about Easter. This Holy Week can be a chance to experience your own Easter reset.
The miracle of the Easter reset isn’t how many eggs we find, or how great the Easter dinner tastes. It’s not about how many people show up for a worship service on Sunday, or how much they give. It’s not about whether we put together the best Easter ever (By the way, the first Easter was the best Easter and everything since then has been commentary.)
The miracle of the Easter reset is that you and I, we, have the opportunity to reset, to renew and to redeem our lives because God’s reset is big enough to reignite us all. God hit the reset button for all of us.
I’ll just end with this thought. A seminary professor shared a story about what had happened to him on one particular Sunday following his Easter sermon. A man in attendance hung around after the service and waited for everyone else to leave.
He told this professor that he wanted to thank him because something had happened that day when he heard the Easter story. “You told that story like you really believe it.”
The professor responded by saying, “That’s because I do.”
Do you need a reset? Then listen this Easter to Jesus’ story, which is also your story. Believe. And experience a reset of your own.
No more being undone by Easter. It’s time to be reignited.