Welcome to all of you who are joining us this evening for the Easter Choir! We know it took a bit of courage to step out of the bleachers, so to speak, and to be willing to join a somewhat, at least, unfamiliar group of people. Who knows what we might ask you to do? Shave your head, take a music IQ test, provide a background check, offer your firstborn or maybe a treasured pet as proof of your commitment. Or worse, sing alone for an audition…in front of the choir.
Well, before you make a beeline for the exits, let me reassure you, you are in a safe place, and we will do our best to make you feel welcome and NOT embarrassed. So, fret not any of the aforementioned hypotheticals, sit back (or should I say sit UP), and relax! We think you’ll enjoy this ride! Who knows, after six weeks with us, you may just want to sign up for a contract extension. (Sorry, no signing bonuses!)
Also, welcome, everyone, to that great time of the year when we begin anticipating and preparing for the most “game-changing” week in all of recorded history…Holy Week. It’s called “holy” week for just that reason…it is set apart from all others. In last Sunday’s sermon, Pastor Brian mentioned that one way we renew our minds is by observing or keeping certain “patterns” in our life, and in the church these are sometimes referred to as seasons or days of the church year. For some, this term or concept may be completely foreign to you, especially if your church background is not from a liturgical tradition, such as Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, etc.
In those cultures, the Christian church has marked certain seasons and dates as worth honoring and repeating every year. So they have made their way into what is universally called The Church Year. Such terms as Advent, Christmas, Lent, Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost, etc. are all meant to refer to those events and commemorations which represent the core of our faith.
Those not making the “Church Year?” Well, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, July 4th, Halloween (go
figure), even Thanksgiving, to name a few. They may get you a day off work, but as part of an overarching outline of our faith, not so critical. And none of those dates was born out of a biblical event. As an evangelical church, most people would not consider Hope traditional, perhaps, but we do have and try to honor certain traditions which we find meaningful.
In our values statements, referred to as our Sweet Sixteen (available on our welcome table), we actually address this issue in Value 11. Here are a few excerpts:
“The tension among different generations or cultures when it comes to honoring tradition isn’t so much about having traditions, but what makes them meaningful? So it is with the family of faith when we seek to pass on what experiences should be universally treasured, as opposed to what is valued by certain individuals.
“Coming from a very traditional, ritualistic even, church background, I understand this concern. There is a commonly held axiom in communication that to the extent that something is familiar, it loses its impact. Said another way, the more we know what’s coming, the less intently or expectantly we receive or anticipate it. So traditions and rituals can have their downside.
“But let’s not throw the proverbial ‘baby out with the bath water.’ While Jesus warns us against vain repetition (Matthew 6:7), he does not advocate never repeating anything. Indeed, that is what traditions are: determining those events, occurrences, and corporate experiences which are repeated, whether it is weekly, monthly, annually or otherwise. This is suggested in the Old Testament in the book of Numbers: “Also at your times of rejoicing—your appointed feasts and New Moon festivals—you are to sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, and they will be a memorial for you before your God.” (Numbers 10:10) This wasn’t just a Hebrew thing, it was a people of God thing, suggesting that part of trusting God for our future was remembering our past. And part of retaining the identity as a unique work of God’s hand was to replay, occasionally, our unique story.”
As we begin again this exciting and sobering season, let’s realize the incredible continuum on which we find ourselves, and do our part to faithfully declare God’s goodness to this generation and the next. We are, after all, part of God’s ongoing story. Through the use of the arts and particularly through our music, let us collectively savor each step on our journey to Jerusalem, to the upper room, the Garden of Gethsemane, to Calvary and ultimately to the sight of the gloriously empty tomb. He Is Risen, yes, but let’s not be quick to skip over the parts that are a bit more uncomfortable for us.
Again, welcome, all you newbies and returnees! We are so glad you have made this choice. We trust you won’t be disappointed. Let us know if there is anything we can do to make the journey more enjoyable.