Another Easter is upon us. This year marks my 25th Easter Sunday of preaching in a church pulpit. And this 25th Easter is so welcomed. Last year, Easter 2020, we were a month into the pandemic and it was the first Easter I ever preached to a church building that was absent bodies. Now there were plenty of memes and jokes floating around the internet equating empty churches to empty tombs. I was blessed to have a sanctuary full of your pictures, so not all was lost. I carefully placed your pictures in your usual pews. I put my immediate family in the front row (where no one else dares to sit), especially the picture of my parents as the combination of my church family and blood relatives provided a spirit of love and support, confidence and comfort.
I welcome this Easter 2021 as we are able to gather for worship, sing the songs of our faith, hear the story of the resurrection, celebrate the victory over sin and death, and live the Easter story that Love Wins! I am praying for great weather on April 4, 2021, so that we can feel the spirit of a community gathered without the inhibition and fear of COVID…but also to be one with the world and sing that our chains are gone because of the grace of God. Isn’t that the Easter story in a nutshell…er eggshell? Or was our empty church more of an Easter story than we realize? Perhaps my 25th Easter in the pulpit, I am still trying to learn the story.
There is a story of a church which voted to open its building to a homeless shelter. This caused quite a controversy in that respectable congregation. Well shortly after the vote with tensions on the rise, one woman threatening to quit the church because she opposed the idea, confronted her pastor in great anger yelling, “If Jesus knew you were let-ting those dirty people into our church, well, Jesus would roll over in his grave.”
For perhaps she has missed the whole point of Easter. Jesus isn’t in his grave. Jesus is on the loose and invites us to follow! He is among the living, and not just among the living, but loving and serving. And every time he would appear to his disciples after his death in an act of ministry, the disciples became kinder, stronger, wiser, more daring. Every time they felt his presence while serving others and every time we have an encounter with him through one another, we become more like him. That is an Easter faith…that we grow in kindness, strength, wisdom and confidence…when we are engaged in ministry…when we are following Jesus in ministries of justice and peace, education and renewal.
It is crucial in the Easter story today that after the disciples had run off in shock and Mary is left in tears concerned over the remains of a corpse, that she has an encounter with Jesus and you hear Jesus tell Mary, “Don’t hold on to me.” It is not to deny actual resurrection, but it’s about God who creates a new way when there was no way. We can flounder and miss that Easter message altogether by clutching onto a body, a building, the past, or a tradition. The Late United Methodist Bishop Michael Coyner suggests that the whole history of Christianity is one long story of our failure to domesticate Jesus. We keep nice buildings, develop great music, fantastic preaching (wink, wink), hold onto the past all in our attempts to control or contain Jesus. But Jesus is not held captive by us, nor did his story stop because of COVID. But the Easter story is best told with the message of Jesus lived out in the crossroads of the world.
A recent article on church leadership suggests that 34% of a congregation will not return to church once COVID is over. 34%. That is 1/3 of our family. The article suggests people will opt out of being in the church due either to the comfort of online worship, or getting out of the routine of church, or flat out believing that the church is non-essential in their lives because of how “Christians” behaved during the pandemic. If we do not get out of our buildings, we will struggle. If we can’t catch up to Jesus who is already sharing a message in the world, we will struggle. If we can’t engage the world with love and reconciliation, we will struggle. If we don’t work side by side with each other, we will struggle. But if we live the mes-sage of love, embrace the challenge before us, and become Easter people…there is no stopping the compel-ling message of Jesus Christ and his gift of salvation.
May we celebrate this Easter Sunday like no other before it. May we live an Easter story that celebrates an empty tomb. May we be on the move this year…finding our role to love and serve a risen Savior.
8:00am - Worship Service (Online & In Person)
9:15am - Sunday School (Online)
9:15am - Adult Sunday School (Online & In Person)
10:30am - Worship Service (Online & In Person)
10:30am - Children's Church (In Person)
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The Coal City United Methodist Church is a multi-generational church family that welcomes children, seniors, and those in between to exciting worship, study, and fellowship experiences.
Some have been members of the Coal City community and the United Methodist Church their whole lives. Others have recently moved to our area and found a home among us. All are welcome.
From the children's moment where the children of our church hear a message in a language they can understand; to carefully crafted biblically based sermons that speak to our current reality as youth and adults; to a variety of high-caliber musical expressions of our faith from classical to contemporary, from organ to oboe, from piano to projected multi-media experiences, there is a place for you in worship. Our services are on the traditional side of blended - familiar, comfortable, but far from stuffy.
All are welcome here.
With choices from Bible studies, to women's groups, children's choir and more - there are so many ways to be an active part of the CCUMC community.
The mission of the Coal City United Methodist Church is to be a sanctuary where prayer, worship, acts of mercy and study of scripture
empower persons to live as disciples of Jesus Christ.
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