I went through a TV rerun phase in my life. Over the years I probably watched hundreds of sitcom reruns: I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched, Happy Days, The Cosby Show, Full House, Family Matters, and others. The jokes were corny but the laugh-track helped me to laugh anyway. The acting was over-the-top, but that didn’t matter either. They don’t make them like that any more, do they? Of course in the days before On Demand TV and streaming services like Netflix, it was a “take it or leave it” affair. If I decided I wanted to watch “Happy Days,” I either watched the episode they gave me, or I didn’t watch the show at all. Over time that meant seeing the same episode two or three times, at least.
Today reruns are a different thing altogether for many people. Why watch randomly chosen episodes that you’ve probably seen before when you can hop on Netflix and stream brand-new-to-you episodes from the latest and greatest show?
Do you see the problem for the church?
In the minds of many younger would-be church-goers, church is like watching the reruns of a has-been TV show. That barrier is only heightened during our most joyous celebrations, like Easter. They’ve heard the Good Friday story before. They’ve heard the Easter story before. I can almost hear their voices saying, “They play this episode every year! Isn’t it time for a new show?” Of course it’s not like millennials sit around and say things like this to each other, but in a way, this is very much the unspoken worldview shared by many of us (yes, your pastor is a millennial!).
Are we any more than broadcasters of Bible reruns? Please God, I hope so. And this is why I think so: On April 16, Easter Sunday, we’re going to greet one another in an ancient kind of way– a way that might be mistaken for a rerun. I’ll shout with joy the Easter Acclamation, “Christ is risen!” Hopefully, I’ll hear the joyful response, “He is risen, indeed!”
Did you catch it? You might have missed it if the words are familiar to your ears. Unless we slip, we never say, “Christ was risen.” We say “Christ is risen.” The center of our joy and hope is not that Jesus lived a little longer than expected. Our joy and our hope is that Christ now lives forever and reigns from God’s right hand.
Look at it from another angle. On Easter morning, we’ll sing my favorite Easter hymn, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” For me it’s not Easter without that hymn. The problem with that, however, is that we tend to sing that song only on Easter Sunday. But get this: you could sing it this next Tuesday and it would still be true. You could sing it on Good Friday, and it would still be true (although anyone who appreciates the seasons of the church year will have a cow…). Whenever there is a day called “today,” Christ the Lord is Risen Today. Please, for God’s sake (and I mean that literally, not flippantly), let your jaw drop as you take that in.
This season, coming up to Holy Week and Easter, is so much more than Bible reruns. Yes indeed, we tell the old, old story. As Paul says, “I passed on to you as most important what I also received: Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures, he was buried, and he rose on the third day in line with the scriptures. He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve, and then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once” (1 Corinthians 15:3-6a, CEB). But old story is still wonderful news. It’s a gospel that continues to change lives, because Jesus is risen. For those who receive this good news with joy, the story is not at all a rerun, because the story is always going on. Even better, in this season, we can all be members of the cast, simply by living out the reality in our own lives that Christ is alive today. In this show, there are new episodes every day. Let’s work together on writing the script. What is it going to mean for you this month that Christ the Lord is Risen today? You don’t have to come to church to answer that question. But if your answers in past seasons have been less-than-exciting, getting together with a bunch of fellow cast members is great way to be inspired for your best season yet.