Tim Gough, award winning blogger of Youthwork Hacks, asks if we are embarrassed of the Easter story.
One Easter I dressed as a giant yellow chicken and scared a toddler to death on the streets of London.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
The concept was that a giant chicken giving out chocolate eggs to the children of London would create good vibes towards our church and spread a feel-good Easter message. My team and I bought a few hundred eggs, and I climbed into the professional chicken mascot costume.
Y’know, its great being a chicken and I’d highly suggest chicken-ing for a day (in case you haven’t already)! Because I was totally hidden in this costume, nobody knew it was me. This meant that all of my old insecurities were swallowed up by my new chicken identity. I danced, I skipped, I hopped, I waved, I performed various awkward renditions of the Macarena. I was invincible! At least this was until we met our first child, who was being pushed along in a pram by his mum.
He took one look at me and freaked out! His face melted into pure terror and he started to scream so loudly that all the dogs of London began to howl. He was simply terrified.
I thought to myself: “It’s OK, I’m a chicken now. I can fix this!”
So, I gave him a little dance and wave, and I tried to look ultra-chicken-friendly. None of this worked, so I broke the one, totally unbreakable rule of being a chicken mascot: I took off my headpiece.
My reasoning was that if I showed him that I was in fact a real person, then he would suddenly get all better. He didn’t. To him, I had just become a self-mutilating chicken that was probably coming to eat his soul! He stood up out of his pushchair and ran, headfirst, into a lamppost.
Mummy wasn’t happy.
Putting on a show
As a youth worker, I know how to put on a show. I know how to dress up my projects, add entertainment value to my events and I know how to make my ministry dance. I know how to make the message look like fun, charming and captivating; sneakily hiding the real message inside.
The problem is that once the real message starts to come out, people call bait-n-switch on us. When you get to the ‘serious bit’ or the ‘God-slot’, and the headpiece comes off, the young people suddenly know that they’ve been duped, and they – understandably – run for the hills.
Easter, however, isn’t just a message. Easter tells the story of the absolute, central reality to the Christian experience, and the utterly indispensable and essential part of our spiritual identity. It tells us how we came into God’s family, through the atoning death and victorious resurrection of Jesus. It’s the epic bit! If you take this piece out, everything else falls down. If you cover it up with a chicken mask, then no one really knows what we stand for, or who we are. When we try to sneak it in later, everyone just gets sceptical, and they leave... or run into a lamppost.
We need to get shameless about Easter.
The shameless Easter story
When it comes to Easter, and the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we need to be shameless. It’s just one of those stories that needs to be told boldly, clearly, and constantly without hesitation or nuance.
There’s nothing wrong at all with having fun with it. Dressing as chickens, running epic egg hunts, and eating more chocolate than is decent is not the problem. The balance, however, is to make sure that all these things serve the story and uplift the message, rather than provide a Trojan horse to sneak it in later.
When Jesus was put on trial, his mate Peter was scared and ashamed. He ended up telling a teenager that he didn’t really know Jesus. She and a few others were so insistent that Peter ended up denying Jesus three times. Gutted. You feel Peter’s pain at the end of the story where it says, ‘he went out and wept bitterly’ (Luke 22:62).
In all our good intentions, wrapping the message up in something more palatable, let’s not end up accidently being like Peter. Let’s have fun this Easter in our projects, but let’s also take a spiritual inventory, a quick ‘message check-up’, and make sure that everything we do amplifies the story, rather than hides it.
After all folks, it’s Easter. Jesus is alive, and the world needs to know!