Word of the Week

Preaching on Easter

It's almost lunchtime on Saturday and I'm still working on my sermon for Easter Sunday. It has been a busy week and now I finally feel like I have the energy of thought and emotion to begin thinking about what it means that "Christ is risen indeed!"

I begin this task today, however, with much gratitude.

It is a high and holy privilege to be allowed to speak a word on the most important day of all the Christian year. I do so knowing that it is an honor considering my age and gender.

I attended one of the youngest seminaries in America. I think the average age of the incoming class was 24. I remember one semester some of my colleagues taking a class on preaching during the high holy days. Yet, many of them emerged from the class wondering how long it would be before they had the opportunity to use the reflection and knowledge they'd gained in the class. With most of us heading for positions in associate land, these classmates of mine knew that it would be a rarity for them to be called upon to preach on Christmas, Easter or even Pentecost. They'd be assigned the "low crowd Sundays" like the week after Christmas and Easter or on Labor Day weekend. In most cases, they'd have to wait until they had their own church to be allowed to speak a word on Easter.

When I was an associate pastor before coming to Washington Plaza, such was my experience just as predicted. I preached the week after Christmas and Easter and on those other unpopular Sundays. And, I know that my story was not uncommon. The only occasions I've heard of associate pastors preaching on an important day are when a death, illness, or major life crisis comes to the senior pastor. Somehow speaking on Easter has become some sort of privilege to be earned or a right to be deserved.

Yet, is this really what the Easter story is all about? Is it a story about earning the love of God? Is it a story about the resurrected Lord appearing to the most polished? Is it a tale about the first coming first?

Actually not at all. It is the story of the world turned upside down of the promises of Jesus coming into life. It is a story of the first shall be last and the last shall be first. It is a story of Christ appearing to the lowest of the day first: some women after all!

I know most the arguments against associates preaching on Christmas and Easter go back to the presumption from the senior pastor: "The church would expect to hear from the senior pastor on such a day. I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't preach when the congregation expected me to." Or, "The associate pastor is just not as good of preacher as I am. I wouldn't want to scare way all the visitors." Or, "The associate pastor is a better preacher than I am, I still want to have a job after Easter."

I eagerly look forward to the day when Washington Plaza has the opportunity to call other pastoral staff and thus opportunities for our congregation to break the barriers on all of this nonsense. For the days that define our Christian faith should always belong to all of us not just a select few. And more voices than just one should always fill any pulpit.

Until then, on occasions, like tomorrow, I will humbly enter the pulpit in a spirit of thanksgiving. Thanking God for chance to bring a word to God's people. Thanking God for the congregations like Washington Plaza that have allowed me to lead without being held back by ideas about age or gender. Thanking God for the opportunity I have each week to do what I love: time a part for study and then speaking encouragement others about the hope that is ours to claim in the story we call resurrection.

Now back to the sermon . . .