April 18, 2017
We have just gone through the Easter season and this year, Orthodox and Protestant (Catholic) Easter landed on the same weekend. The last time this happened was in 2014 but we will not see it again until 2025.
As a pastor of a community church that does not follow a liturgy and whose worship services are complete with drums, guitars, and every other component of the modern worship movement, it was somewhat of a surprise to end up in the Greek Orthodox church on the afternoon of Good Friday.
I grew up Greek Orthodox but my family did not attend regularly. In time, the Orthodox church became a distant memory as I pursued ministry in evangelical circles. Due to my role on Sunday's, I rarely get opportunities to visit other churches similar to ours, let alone an Orthodox one.
This year though, was different. My mother, whose in her 80's, wanted to attend church and asked if I could take her. She has never acclimated to the style of church I pastor which is understandable knowing her Greek upbringing, so I offered to take her after our morning service to the Greek Orthodox service later that afternoon.
Even though I am heavily immersed in the church world with all its forms, doctrines, and ecclesiastical structures, the experience with my mom was a rewarding one. It served to remind me about all that is good about church and the truths we hold dear, even though I experienced them in two radically different ways that day.
In the morning, at the church I pastor, the service was a mixture of music, video, lights, Scripture, message, and prayer. In the afternoon service at the Greek Orthodox church it was a mixture of liturgy, Scripture, incense, prayer, chanting (singing), processionals, and priestly blessings.
What was striking though, was beyond the dramatic stylistic differences of both services, the message was clearly the same. Though the first service was in English and the second primarily in Greek, I was struck by the common thread that bound both services together - the cross and the sacrificial death of Jesus.
Even the passages of Scripture that were read were the same. Also, though it was a Friday where death cast a shadow over the messianic hopes that rested on Jesus, both services hinted at the fact that Sunday would change the face of death forever because of the Resurrection.
As I drove mom home after the service, I came away with a new appreciation for the church. Not a specific church, but the big "C" church that encompasses the entire swath of professing believers. Not just here in our little corner of Canada, but around the world. Whenenver the topic turns to church, its often slanted towards noting the differences. On this particular Easter weekend, I celebrated what we all have in common.
The church has its issues no doubt and its many detractors, but for me, this Easter weekend reminded me that in a culture of fake news and post-truth ideologies, the church continues to stand upon core truths that have carried it for thousands of years. Truths rooted in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As they say in Greek, Christos Anesti! (Christ is risen). He is risen indeed.
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