This is ‘Holy Week’. The most significant events on the church calendar are celebrated this week, beginning with Palm Sunday and culminating with the highlight of it all, Easter morning. Christians all over the world have geared up to memorialize the events of this most significant week in our history. Under whatever banner it identifies itself, Christianity will invest exorbitant amounts of time and money in the presentation of ancient rituals, dramatic performances, and elaborate musical concerts, not to mention a plethora of less complex traditional activities. In light of all the holy furor going on around us this week, I can’t resist asking a couple of questions that could be disturbing. For instance, “How many of these grand events will have any measurable impact on the real lives of those participating in them, and if there is any, how long will it last?” Here’s another, “Will the culture at large feel any repercussions from all of our preaching, singing, dancing, feasting, and dramatic re-creations?” My guess is that if this Easter week is anything like the ones that I’ve seen come and go for decades now, it will pass as thoroughly unnoticed by the culture around us as if they were in a collective coma. And if this is our high point, what does that say about our effect for the rest of the year? More measurable impact is likely to be felt from the Easter Bunny’s chocolate in 2014 than anything the institutional church is likely to generate.
That was hard, wasn’t it? While I believe that what I’ve said is true, my heart’s desire and my fervent prayer is that I might be wrong in my assessment. Unfortunately, I see too many indicators that my prediction is correct to have any confidence otherwise. From our nation’s leadership on down, it appears that those who use the name and institutions of Christianity as a mechanism to support their own greed and affirm their own lusts are heralded as acceptable examples to be emulated. Conversely, those who hold that the Bible is actually the inspired and authoritative Word of God are reduced to a place on the lunatic fringe and are seen as a threat to be controlled and/or eliminated. All in all, this is not a picture that is likely to be changed by a few concerts and some holy special effects. So what do we do?
Do we rebel against tradition? Do we cease to celebrate the events of Holy Week, even Easter? Is it wrong to do things to try to get people’s attention, and to stimulate them to remember what Jesus did, and why? Of course it isn’t, but our job is not to just observe the memorials of His passion and remind ourselves that it happened. Our challenge is to allow His message—more accurately, Christ, Himself—to invade us, and every aspect of our lives, to allow Him to affect a personal transformation that is unmistakable and eternal. What those around us have a hard time ignoring are demonstrations of personal holiness, not more exhibitions of programmed holiness that disappears when everybody goes home. Maybe we’ve been working from the wrong direction.
When the Apostle Paul ministered in the ancient city of Ephesus, the impact of that one man’s influence resulted in the public destruction of articles and materials associated with idol worship and magic arts that was worth an amount that, in our day, would exceed some seven million dollars (Acts 19:19-20). That event wasn’t the result of a major concert with lights and pyrotechnics accompanied by some flowery sermonizing. It was the result of one life touching another. Individual lives that were transformed by the One Paul preached about reached out to touch others. It was the result of one person living out the message in his daily life and encouraging others to follow—and so on, and so on. It reached a point where the popular culture in a city of about 250,000 couldn’t ignore it. The fire that was kindled in Ephesus didn’t begin with that pile of books they destroyed. That was just one of the results of it. It began in the hearts of a few people who had a personal encounter with the risen Christ, and discovered a passion for His truth that could not be extinguished.
Granted, there were some widespread repercussions that unfolded from that fire, and some of them were not very pleasant. But which is worse, to endure some unpleasant reactions from those who hate what the followers of Jesus represent, or to be so weak and ineffective that our most significant celebrations and exhibitions can go virtually unnoticed by the world around us?
Would you agree that the important ‘So What’ question should follow? Here’s a suggestion . . . Let’s just go ahead and declare that Holy Week 2014 may not be all that it should be, and admit that the rest of the world may not notice, and the promoters and defenders of evil may not feel threatened by it at all. Then let’s set out together to light a match or two and start some fires that by this time next year, the world around us cannot ignore.
© 2014 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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