Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Cost of the Celebration

I've been pondering a remark Amanda Drury made earlier this week on the practice of those who attend church twice a year, at Christmas and Easter. She noted that at her church, the Easter visitors have also been coming on Palm Sunday:

While these people will attend both Sunday services, they tend to be absent at Maundy Thursday/Good Friday services. This means that they get the triumphal entry and the resurrection, but no cross.

"Is this a problem?" she asked to provoke discussion. YES.

As I've blogged before, the cross was absolutely central to Paul. It wasn't merely one component of His understanding of the faith; it was the core, the Main Thing. An article I read today pointed out that the cross and the resurrection aren't just two points in a sequence of events; the cross takes priority over all other salvation history.
"Paul's emphasis on the cross appears intended to stress that the cross cannot be bypassed on the way to resurrection. Before sharing in the resurrection life and all its fullness, believers must first pass through the shadow of the cross."

So why do so many people come to church on Easter, but find other things to do on Good Friday? And I'm not just talking about "C-and-E"s here, either. How many of us who faithfully attend church every Sunday of the year, and wouldn't think of missing Easter, aren't planning to bother to worship with the Body tomorrow? (I ask myself the same question--over the years, I have certainly not been a faithful participant in Good Friday worship services.)

It's a sign of the times, I think. We want the pleasure without the pain. I'll take the easy way that's going to demand the least from me, thanks. But the reality is this: We can't live unless we first die.
"The cross brings home the full seriousness of sin, declares the powerlessness of fallen humanity to achieve salvation and exposes human delusions of self-righteousness."

Maybe that's why so many of us want to skip Good Friday and celebrate on Sunday morning. We'd rather not deal with the seriousness of sin; in fact, we aren't convinced it's all that serious in the first place. And surely we aren't completely powerless, are we? "In fact, I'm generally a pretty good person, when you get right down to it."

Nobody likes to be told he is weak and helpless. Nobody likes to think about such a "downer" subject as the wrath of God or the way our sin offends His holiness. We'd rather push it out of our minds. In our pride, we would rather believe we're not doing so bad.

God forbid the thought. Our resurrection came at an infinite price. And we could do NOTHING to achieve it. Our freedom from sin is free to us, but was not free to our Father in heaven. How can we celebrate without acknowledging what it cost our Father to invite us to the party?

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14)!

(Quotes from A.E. McGraith, "Theology of the Cross." Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Intervarsity Press.)


John said...

Great post. I've linked to it from my blog.

Beau and Kathryn said...

You should write a book...and preach a sermon...and teach a class. Really, most everything you write is just so inspiring and wonderful to read! You have a gift Mrs. Kannel:) Love you, mean it!