Maybe I’m way out in left field on this (it’s happened before) but I have that “I’m about to see a train-wreck” feeling creeping over me. It’s Spring time again, the time of year when we get to see the pageantry of the modern religious culture on full display. Pastel colors will decorate our churches, celebration themes of new life and renewal will be rolled out, large meals will be arranged and friends & family will make plans to get together. Eggs, flowers and candy will be hidden, planted and given to children. If you think I’m referring to the upcoming Easter holiday, you are correct. But I’m also referring to the Hindu Holi festival earlier this month. And that’s where I’m a little uncomfortable. First, let’s consider Easter…
If I visit the “resource” page of Saddleback church the week after Easter, what will Rick Warren’s recorded Easter sermon sound like? What about Andy Stanley’s sermon over at North Point? How about the sermons by Steven Furtick, Perry Noble and the thousands of local pastors who are modeling their ministries and messages after these guys? The Easter Holiday is supposed to be a celebration of the victory obtained by Christ when He conquered sin & death. When He atoned for the sins of His people by paying off a debt that no man or woman could ever pay on their own. It is indeed a celebration of new life, but it’s the life that come from God when those who are born spiritually dead are made new, being transformed into new living creations. It’s also a time to get together to celebrate, but rather than a celebration of a season, a celebration of the person and work of Jesus Christ. But is that what I will hear when I visit the online sermon pages a few days after Easter? Will I hear sermons expounding the work of Christ or simply the themes of love, springtime, and goodwill toward men? These aren’t bad things in and of themselves, far from it! But they aren’t the reason for the Holiday. Not even close. While goodwill toward my neighbor is great, it pales in comparison to the goodwill God had when He sent Christ to die on my behalf while I was not only wandering down my own path, but an active enemy of God (Scripture says we aren’t just lost, we are also enemies of Him). Will I hear the details of the work of our Lord? Will I hear the message of forgiveness preached to those who repent and believe on His name, trusting the work of Christ while not only casting aside sin but also the pride & reliance in our own good behavior? What about you? What will you hear this coming Easter Sunday?
That’s where my “Uh-oh I feel a train-wreck coming” feeling is originating from. It’s coming from a sense of Holi, the Hindu Holiday celebrated not on the coming full moon (Easter) but on our last full moon. This Hindu holiday celebrates Spring, forgiveness, and goodwill by coming together as a community with flowers, candy, and family feasts. They celebrate with bright colors on hands and face, while we confine those colors to eggs (apparently we’re more restrained in that regard). Given that the evangelical community as a whole has picked up a LOT of Eastern religion baggage lately with the help of modern seeker-friendly and purpose-driven leaders, I’m expecting to hear sermons that would fit in fairly well at a Holi festival. “Good” things will be discussed and celebrated while the greatest thing, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, will be put on a back shelf or neglected altogether. We already have the Eastern teachings of contemplative prayer, positive confessions and subjective truths. We have already, in many, many churches, abandoned all teachings of atonement for sin and the call to repent and believe. We’ve ejected all that “irrelevant baggage” years ago because it’s not what folks want to hear. It’s my fear that in a lot of churches the Easter sermon will sound very Hindu, even though those preaching it will teach us these things using Christian terminology after reading a Bible verse so that we won’t grow suspicious. It can be very Hindu while sounding very Christian if you have a good speaker (and we have some really good, smooth speakers these days!)
Christian train-wrecks. That’s my fear – sermons that are more Hindu than Christian. This coming Easter Sunday, look up the Scripture quoted at the start of the sermon and read several verses before the quoted text and several verses after it. Ask yourself if what is being preached is in alignment with what the author of the passage was teaching. If your preacher is simply bringing a light-hearted message of “good” things when the passage was discussing something completely different, why do you think that is? If, after all the pageantry and passionate speaking, there isn’t a call to repent of all sin and cast yourself on Christ for mercy, ask yourself why that might be. If the focus of the sermon is how this time can be a Springtime renewal in your life because God’s got big plans for your success, maybe take a few minutes to consider if that’s why God came in the flesh to be tortured and killed on your behalf – to make you successful. Is that why He came? Here’s a scary thought for you: If, after the Easter sermon, answering these three questions leaves you feeling disturbed and uncomfortable you might have just attended a “Christian” Holi festival. Consider this little blog post your train-crossing warning light. Beware the Easter Holi train!!