Here’s a challenge: try to describe the Mona Lisa. If you’re like me, you’ll say something like: it’s a little painting in the Louvre, of a young lady with an enigmatic smile, and in the background there are scenes of the Italian countryside.
Yup. Pretty unsatisfactory. Factually accurate, but without passion and bereft of soul. Clearly, to know the Mona Lisa, you must see the Mona Lisa. And, if you want to go even beyond recognition so that you’re overwhelmed by the artistry, the sublimity, the mystery of Leonard da Vinci’s masterpiece, you have to take the next step and truly study the painting, meditate upon it, and let its transcendence find a place in your heart and mind.
We preachers and pastors deal with a similar issue. Week after week, Sunday after Sunday, we stand in our pulpits and share (as the Sunday School song goes) the old, old story of Jesus and his love. Soon it will be Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection, and once again we will read the biblical revelation of the empty tomb, the amazed disciples, the risen Lord, the hope of the nations. It’s a great and important story, but one which we so easily take for granted, or listen with only one ear open and hearts and minds not fully engaged.
My advice to you this year is: don’t let that be you. Don’t settle for just knowing what the Christian story is, having heard it from second hand sources. Don’t give it only a cursory glance, a quick peak, which lets you know the general contours of the story, but which leaves you cold and unmoved by its strength and beauty.
Instead, dive deep into the mystery. Show up on Sunday morning, and listen intently for the miracle of the gospel – a God who cares so much for us that he came to be with us in Christ, a Father who loves us so much that he took our burden and let it be nailed to the cross, a Lord who stands before an empty tomb and declares death defeated forever.
May the music and the symbols and the ancient yet eternally relevant words of the season overwhelm you, and awaken in you appreciation for the Holy and participation in the wonder of grace.