By Rob and Stacy Birks, Majors–
We are living in an unpredictable time. Day-to-day life has been turned upside down since the pandemic spread. It may seem as if “normal life” is gone forever, but take heart! Some things have not changed. Sunday, April 12, 2020, is still going to be Easter Sunday and the reason we in the Christian faith tradition celebrate Easter also remains a constant—hope.
“Hope doesn’t put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly….” (Romans 5:2-7).
Easter 2020 is going to look different. It will be a unique experience for all of us who usually go to a church building to celebrate and worship with other followers of Jesus. This Easter we are all encouraged to “stay home” with the rest of the country. The corps officer or pastor is not responsible for how we will celebrate the holiday, and instead each one of us has the opportunity to make it spiritually and personally meaningful in our own living spaces.
This worshiping at home thing is not new to our household. We lead a house church ministry in The Salvation Army and are constantly reinforcing the concept that each one of us who follow Jesus—we are the church. Church is not the building. Church is not the pastor and leaders in it, nor the programs offered. Church, we stress, is us loving God and loving our neighbors and serving in his name in our communities. We have had weekly gatherings in our home for over two years. Hopefully, some of what we share here will be helpful to you as you worship in your homes this Easter.
What is important to us in creating an atmosphere of worship is using all our senses. It looks like every piece of furniture, area rug and lamp in the house being purposefully placed. Every decoration on a shelf and picture on a wall is intentional. A home-cooked meal, or the aroma of a home-made dessert. Lit candles are subtle but helpful. The chosen music creates an atmosphere. Providing a private place for individual prayer and meditation is valuable (we’ve used an empty closet under the stairs in our house). We want whatever is seen, heard, smelled, tasted and touched to encourage entering into worship and focusing on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the hope he gives.
Traditionally, on Good Friday we bake homemade hot cross buns and deliver them to people in our ministry and to our neighbors. It is a labor of love that fills the house with a pleasing aroma and puts smiles on the faces of the recipients. The kneading is meditative, the rising and baking can be spiritually symbolic, the cross of icing on the top of each bun is a reminder of what the day is all about. It is a perfect way to witness to others about the love and hope of Easter. This year will be no different. We plan to make them, deliver them and eat our fair share of them. (Try this recipe to make your own.)
During this unique time in history, we want to encourage you to engage with the Easter story in your home. This can include devotional Bible readings, listening to albums, watching YouTube videos, live streaming from your corps, and so on. A tradition for us is incorporating The Singing Company’s album Holy Week. This work of art leads the listener through the week starting with the celebration of Palm Sunday and ending with the hope of Easter Sunday. This link includes resources, from chords, to Scripture readings and the recorded songs.
Our family is planning to observe our own sunrise service. We probably will be in lawn chairs and pajamas, but the Son will not care. Later in the day we will have a meal together and FaceTime family members in other households. We plan to share in a time of prayer and Bible reading. During this time of keeping to yourself, you can share Easter with someone else by phone or online. Share a testimony of hope or use your social media platforms to share the hope of Easter with the world by creating something inspired by the meaning of Easter and what hope the resurrection brings to you. The Holy Spirit is not confined.
Finally, join with The Salvation Across the western U.S. for an evening Easter worship service. The service will be streamed live from this Facebook page starting April 12 at 7 p.m.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him…” (Romans 15:13).
About the Authors: Majors Rob and Stacy Birks are Mission Development Officers for The Salvation Army valley missional communities in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley.
- Join in Easter worship with The Salvation Army April 12 at 7 p.m. here.
- Try making your own symbolic hot cross buns this year with a recipe from The Pioneer Woman.
- Listen to the Holy Week album and find related devotionals to follow from The Singing Company.
- Visit westernusa.salvationarmy.org to find The Salvation Army nearest you.
- Give to support the fight for good in your community.