If one considers the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus – the birth of the church from the once despondent and defeated disciples, the perseverance of the saints even unto today, last Sunday’s sermon that changed a life — it is difficult to see why anyone would disbelieve it, except for two reasons:
1. The resurrection is an odd occurrence, outside the range of our usual experience, so that makes it difficult for our conceptual abilities. We tend to reject that which we lack the conceptual apparatus for understanding. Because we cannot conceive of resurrection we deny its possibility.
2. Perhaps more importantly, if Jesus is raised from the dead, if the resurrection is true, a fact that is real, then we must change. Resurrection carries with it a claim, a demand that we live in the light of this stunning new reality or else appear oddly out of step. Now we must acknowledge who sits upon the throne, who is in charge, how the story ends. Now we must either change, join in God’s revolution or else remain unchanged, in the grip of the old world and its rulers, sin and death.
Thus because we preachers must, at least on a yearly basis, preach resurrection, we keep being challenged to live and talk in the light of the resurrection. We keep being born again into a new reality. We are not permitted the old excuse for lethargy, “people don’t change.” Certainly, everything we know about people suggests that they usually don’t change. But sometimes they do. And that keeps us preachers nervous and sitting lightly on our cynicism. Change is rare, virtually impossible, were it not that Jesus has been raised from the dead. When a pastor keeps working with some suffering parishioner, even when there is no discernable change in that person’s life, when a pastor keeps preaching the truth even with no visible congregational response, that pastor is being a faithful witness to the resurrection (Luke 1:2). That preacher is continuing to be obedient to the charge of the angel at the tomb to go and tell something that has changed the fate of the world (Matt. 28:7), which the world cannot know if no one dares to tell.
Many of our congregations had an incredible response to their Easter services. Riverchase boasted the “earliest Easter Sunrise Service in Alabama” with a Holy Saturday Service that drew over five hundred persons. Trinity Homewood and Alabaster had record breaking Easter crowds. In the Northeast, little New Market has 113 members and had 261 in attendance! In Madison, Asbury had 5,100 at church in all their Easter services. Scottsboro First has 647 members and had 854 at church. St. Paul/Triana has 137 members and had 365 on Easter. In every one of these churches, these attendance figures validate the specific steps these congregations and pastors have taken to make their churches be inviting congregations.