Preaching this Easter
Preaching on Easter Sunday is always a challenge — at least it was for me. You’ve got the same basic story every year, but you need to hear it fresh and help others to hear it fresh too. Then there are (at least until now) the anticipated crowds, offering an opportunity that doesn’t come every day or every Sunday. And Easter is well, kind of the heart of the thing, of the Christian faith. If there’s a time for preaching to speak, to hit home, to sound like good news, this is it. That can feel like a lot of pressure. Acknowledge it, then to the extent you are able, let it go.
And now this. This Easter will be totally different. This link is to a helpful Alban/ Duke video/ conversation that came out yesterday on preaching this Easter during the COVID pandemic.
You’ll be preaching from your home, or your deck, or your office/ study at the church or maybe from a pulpit in a sanctuary without much anyone else there. My advice, by the way, is not to try to fake it by getting all robed up at the pulpit, surrounded by a wall of lilies and with an organ blaring in the background. This isn’t that Easter. Don’t pretend nothing different is happening because it is. This is special time and a special Easter.
If you are using ZOOM, or some variation of it, this is a time to be intimate. The technology that will put you, your face/ your place, with it’s signs of you, up close and personal. And this is who your people want to hear from, you, their minister, the one who lives in their midst, who knows them by name.
The trick, it seems to me, is for you — preacher — to know and to trust that there are people out there, on the other side, as hungry for a word as ever, maybe more. The trick is to keep them in your thoughts, your imagination, your heart. Normally, a preacher who is good at what they do is not only putting out energy, but also receiving it as she preaches. A congregation responds. Sometimes verbally, more often non-verbally, with facial expressions and movements. But, normally, you’re getting instant feedback, and the best preachers work with that and draw energy from it.
This year it will be different. But not everything will be totally different.
The are still people out there, waiting, longing, hanging on by a thread, listening for a word. Even if you can’t see them or feel them, you have to trust — to know — that they are there. You have to speak to them, in their isolation, in their fear, in their sorrow and hope.
I would not only recommend that preachers not pretend everything is as usual. But that you take advantage of what’s different, the different intimacy.
But also be confident in what you are doing. You are telling a story that is ancient but never gets old. You are telling a story about a God who doesn’t give up, who isn’t undone by the world’s worst. You are telling the story of an end that is not an end but a shocking, new beginning. You are telling the story of a God who comes back for those who betray and desert him. You are telling the story of a God who insists on getting the last word.
So adapt to the new situation. Don’t pretend it’s all the same. But hold onto the stuff that is the same, not as tired repetition, but as the power of the living God to break the chains of fear, to roll away stones that we cannot budge, to meet us in partial light of a not-quite-dawn, and walk alongside on the dusty roads of loss and disappointment. Trust the story. Trust your calling. Preach the word, always different and always the same.