What will you do to honor Jesus this Easter? Let’s be creative and look past traditional habits and token self-denials. Are there other practical answers to that question? Unfortunately, many people who answer to the label as Christians will do little or nothing to honor Jesus this Easter! No one could guess from their Holy Week activities that they were a Christian at all. That’s not the way it should be.
Honor Jesus with action
During Holy Week true Christians remember the suffering of Jesus including his death on the cross. Easter is the highest point of the church year, the time when we remember Jesus’ climactic victory over death. Above all times, this is when Christians should be most active in celebrating their Savior. And our celebration should not just be with words. Words alone cannot honor one who taught us to put his sayings into action (Matthew 7:24-27). But not everyone will want to honor Jesus in exactly the same way. So here are five suggestions all of which will help us truly honor Jesus this Easter.
Give a gift of your time and love to help someone in need. This could range from random acts of kindness to strangers to volunteering at a nursing facility to visiting a disabled friend to doing outdoor work for an elderly neighbor to… The more in-person the gift, the better for this one. Jesus was always helping someone in need. He told us he came to serve others and urged us to do the same (Matt. 20:25-28).
Give a gift of money to a cause that helps those who are among people who the OT would include among the “oppressed.” Such causes include aid to those suffering from natural disasters, aid to refugees, aid for victims of racial injustice, groups working against systemic poverty, food banks, etc. If we are not willing to acknowledge God’s gifts to us and give of our finances to others, we have not yet caught the Spirit of Jesus.
Worship at church during Holy week. First of all, Jesus deserves to be honored by our presence in services in his honor. Second, it is the upward look that sustains our outward focus and dims our self-centeredness. At Copper Hill there are three opportunities from Palm Sunday through Easter.
Speak to someone about your faith in Jesus. This conversation could be a short personal anecdote describing some way that your faith has helped you. It could be an invitation to a friend to attend a service with you. It could be an offer to pray for someone who is going through a tough time and would appreciate a prayer. There’s no better time than Easter time to make Jesus a positive part of our conversation.
People always wonder, “What should I do to observe Lent?” Here are three excellent suggestions I have printed in my bulletin for Ash Wednesday for the last two years. They are strongly inspired by the 2015 Lenten Letter of Methodist Bishop Jane Allen Middleton to whom I give credit for these ideas.
“Give Up” — Sacrifice of some kind is an honored Lenten tradition. The sacrifice of Jesus for us inspires us to discipline ourselves by meaningful sacrifice.
“Take Up” — Jesus encouraged us to take up our cross and follow Him. Often this means tackling some project or ministry on His behalf. We are His hands and feet of love and caring. We are His influence working for justice and healing. So during Lent is an ideal time to take up a special ministry for Jesus.
Look Up and Open Up to “Receive from Jesus.” — We live in the age of the Holy Spirit, and God does not expect us to live the Christian life in our own strength. So during Lent is an ideal time to draw on God’s strength. Another great way to observe Lent is to choose an additional way to draw close to God and allow His Spirit to fill you.
When the purposes pursued during Lent carry over afterward, that is a salutary sign that a fuse has been lit for something good. I hope so because, like most Americans, my office and closets and garage have been getting more and more full, and this in spite of the fact that I tried very hard to downsize when we moved a couple years ago. Allow me to explain more fully. It is customary among Christians to give up something for Lent as a discipline of self-denial. In other years I have fasted one day a week or given up a favorite food or added devotional time. But this year, I felt I needed to do something different. I decided to tackle the problem of accumulation of things that plagues Americans, me among them.
Accumulation is too easy
Now, I’m just middle class, and I can’t afford to shop much, but if I buy a book here, a tool there, a few folders for the office, something for my Christmas display, I’m adding things to my possessions. Then I receive a few clothes for Christmas, and maybe another shop tool. Perhaps I see a steal of a deal at the one or two summer garage sales I stop for. The result– adding on a few more things. Now I don’t have or need any rented storage units as many Americans have, and I can still park a car in my garage if needed, but I decided that it was still time to turn the tide and make a deliberate start at de-accumulating.
My Lenten goals toward de-accumulating
So for my Lenten journey, I set a goal to get rid of at least forty items from at least 7 different areas of my life. It took me a couple days past Easter to finish, but I exceeded my goal both in numbers of items and in numbers of areas affected. However, I did discover that it was one thing to identify items as extra and ready to be disposed of and another to actually make them disappear. For example, I have two old computers still to take to recycling and I have a stack of books removed from my shelves but not yet taken away. I guess that’s one reason that de-accumulation has to be a continuing discipline.
Convince yourself that de-accumulation is desirable and necessary.
Identify things that are excess in obvious areas first to get the ball rolling.
Allow the habit to spread into areas you had not thought about down-sizing.
Keep track of progress for encouragement.
Set aside things to be de-accumulated that cannot be immediately disposed of.
Carry through with plans for these identified items.
Question some underlying purposes that have driven your accumulation.
There have already been some good side effects of this effort.
I like most industrious people had more projects in the works than I could ever do. I have already deliberately discontinued one of my big some-day projects and am questioning another.
I have reduced clutter which is an encouragement to continue.
I am creating space to better work on current activities.
I can sense a narrowing of focus for my energies.
I believe I have also started a mindset that will help me to continue to pare down inessentials and focus my life more effectively.
Pastor Eric kicked off our Lenten Easter series called Walking with Jesusthis past Sunday. He and I have been working behind the scenes on the entire outline for this series. Our goal is to focus our thoughts in the Gospels on the ministry of Jesus and our reaction to it. This will help us all to be powerfully confronted again by Jesus in person through the pages of Scripture. We are always changed for the better by such an encounter, just as his disciples were.
Walking With Jesus – Lenten/Easter Series for 2013
This mild winter is passing quickly. A week from today is Ash Wednesday. This coming Sunday begins our 50 day emphasis leading up to Easter. This year, Pastor Eric and I have chosen to focus on the life of our Lord using passages from the Gospel of John. Each week we will show a DVD interpretation with words taken directly from the Good News Bible translation of the American Bible Society, an excellent contemporary translation. It’s hard to believe that it has been 5 years already since the last such series from John. Each time we cover it I find new insights to emphasize.
Prayer Team leader, Larry Nemitz, and I have recently chosen a new series for Wednesday evenings. Intercessors’ Group had completed their series, When You Don’t Know What To Pray, and needed another. The title of our new study is `The Biblical Way of the Cross,’ a series of meditations on the last week of Jesus’ life. Since Lent was fast approaching this seemed very appropriate.