Easter weekend. It’s a time to celebrate. A time when we look to the empty tomb as the greatest source of hope. Because Jesus defeated death, hell and the grave. And left the tomb empty.
It occurs to me that this Easter, for the first time in modern history, churches are also empty. At first, the thought of not spending Easter Sunday AT church really made me sad. It’s Easter. We have to be at church. Don’t we?
As I’ve really thought about it this weekend, and reflected over our last few weeks of church at home, I’ve started to think that maybe we’ve gotten it wrong. Hear me out. I’ve missed being at church. I miss the way our pastor presents the Gospel each week. I miss our worship team. And if I’m being totally honest, I miss the people most. I wondered what “church” would look like when we were no longer gathering. But these last few weeks, just my little family in our living room, have been some of the best church we’ve had in a long time. We’ve been fully IN church. And not at all at the building.
The things I’ve seen the church do, when forced from within its walls, have made my heart smile. Yes, many churches leave their walls regularly to reach, to help, to show up. But what happens when the reliability of the building is gone? When the habit of meeting isn’t a luxury we have anymore?
In this time when everything is so different, so unfamiliar, so unlike anything any of us have ever known, I think losing the luxury of meeting may be a gift. Not a gift any of us thought we wanted. Or even that we want to keep forever. But a gift none the less. The early church had no walls. The early church was the people, not a place. The early church didn’t need a building or order of service or band. The early church didn’t need comfortable chairs or a coffee bar or free breakfast. They just needed Jesus. Sometimes, even though the intention is best, the programs have in some ways replaced Jesus. We think if we don’t have the best musicians, the most current songs, the spotlights, the smoke machines, the stuff…that the people won’t come. But that’s never what the church was meant to be. The church was never meant to be a show. The church was meant to be people drawing people to Jesus.
That empty tomb is supposed to be where we leave all of the things that hold us back from being who Jesus created us to be. Sometimes I think that the church building has become a tomb of sorts. A place that holds us back with programs and meetings and bells and whistles and busyness. Rather than the place that releases us to go into our daily lives and BE the church.
Let me be clear…the very first Sunday that we can meet together again, I’ll be there. And I probably won’t even be running late! Because there’s so much beauty in people coming together. In worshipping together. In praying together. But I can’t help but think on this Easter weekend when our buildings are as empty as the tomb, that Jesus is calling us closer to Him while we’re all further apart. Because He never intended for us to be a building only. He never intended for the once a week in the building to be the strongest part of our relationship with Him. We, me and you, are the church. That was true before a virus turned our world upside down and will be true long after this virus leaves us.
I am the church. You are the church. Your living room? It’s a sanctuary. The celebration of the empty tomb is not lessened by your location. From our couch sanctuary to yours, Happy Resurrection.