But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
The season of Eastertide is upon us, which means that Holy Week and Easter Sunday are blessedly in the rearview mirror. Like most pastors, I am relieved. Holy Week is wonderful to be sure, with Lenten gatherings, foot-washings, prayer-walks, Easter vigils and sunrise services all as precursors to full pews, special music, and Easter lilies. But it is also incredibly exhausting.
For many pastors there is no higher-adrenaline time of year than the seven days between Palm Sunday and Easter. We work hard to prepare multiple sermons and write creative liturgy that speaks to the hearts of our people. This is our job after all. We pour the best of ourselves into our work and when the last service ends on Easter Sunday, when the last hymn is sung and the last hand shaken, many of us look for the nearest soft surface on which to collapse.
What a gift to the church and especially to church leaders that season of Easter isn’t over in a few hours but lasts a full 50 days! What a blessing that when exhausted pastors wake up on Easter Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday) the tomb is still empty and the promises of God are still true.
This long season of Easter is a helpful reminder to church workers of what our work is about – and especially of what it is not about. We are called to pour our labor and energy into preparing for Holy Week and Easter Sunday and to say something big and true about Christ’s incredible acts of love for us. We are not called to ensure that those acts happen. The resurrection—praise God!—doesn’t depend on us. If we think it is our job to keep the church alive or to maintain the presence of God in the world—we are sorely misled about what we are doing. We aren’t tasked with making Easter “special” any more than we are responsible for raising Jesus from the dead. The resurrection isn’t in our hands and neither is the vitality of the church.
Like my colleagues, I gave it my best shot on Easter morning (and on Good Friday and Maundy Thursday). But now, from the heart of Eastertide, I am reminded that neither the love of God nor the penetrating reality of death giving way to life depends on anything I said or failed to say. For those of us who bear the full weight of congregational busyness during Holy Week, this is a freeing, grace-filled reminder.
The church’s proclamation of the gospel doesn’t rest only on the shoulders of the preacher, and the miracle of the resurrection doesn’t exist for only one day.
We still get to do this work together.
God is still faithful.
It is still Easter.
And for all these things: I am grateful.
Scott Hauser is pastor and head of staff at First Presbyterian Church in Clarion, Pennsylviania.