Looking back at Easter


Once more Easter is in the past. I look back on the Easter weekend with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I found it quite inspiring. On Friday evening I participated in a Communion service in my local church. On Saturday morning I was the guest speaker in the Adventist Church in Utrecht, where I preached about the good news of the resurrection after the church members had enjoyed an Easter breakfast together.

Participating in a communion service is quite special for me, since I rather seldom have the opportunity to do so. I preach almost every week and fill the gaps in the preaching schedule in many different churches. It stands to reason that in most churches their ‘own’ pastor takes the communion service rather than someone who is flown in from Zeewolde.

On Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter) a spectacular theater/musical production was brought to the stage in the city of Amersfoort: the Passion. It told the story of the suffering and death of Christ in a modern way. It was the seventh time that the Passion was brought to the (open-air) stage. More than 20.000 people had come to Amersfoort, in spite of all the  security measure, which were deemed advisable after the terrorist attacks in Brussels just a few days earlier. More than four million people watched the television registration, i.e. one in every four men, women and children in the Netherlands.

However, the Easter event is all too easily eclipsed by other things. I was greatly disappointed when (as I do every do) I visited the website of the Netherlands union on Easter Sunday. The least I had expected was a short Easter meditation. But no.  The most important news for this site was apparently the 2016 budget for the church organization. How sad!

In the Dutch national arena the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was overshadowed by the passing of Johan Cruyff at  age 68. He is seen by many as one of the best soccer players of all times. I am prepared to accept that judgment, when soccer experts tell me so. I know nothing about soccer and I am quite happy to stay in  that state of ignorance. I do, however, realize that Cruyff was a real icon for lots of people and that in many ways he was a great ambassador for his country. It was, therefore, quite understandable that the media paid a lot of attention to his death. It had been known for some time that Cruyff suffered from lung cancer and the media had been able to prepare for the news of his passing. But I had not expected that my newspaper (with a supposedly Christian signature) would fill the entire front page with a picture of Johan Cruyff and dedicate no less than twelve (!) pages to him. In the Dutch media many voices were heard that compared the two JC’s—Jesus Christ and  Johan Cruyff. It was clear that the soccer player JC was far more popular that the Man of Sorrows.

Let’s for a moment return to the Passion. The interest for this theatrical production was both encouraging and remarkable. The recently published report God in the Netherlands—that appears once every ten years—was very pessimistic about the current state of faith and of the church in the Netherlands. And this is most certainly true for the kind of religion that is channeled through the churches. At the same time there is still an enormous amount of spirituality and God is not ‘dead’ by any means. The big question is how the churches (and that includes ‘my’ church) can connect with these new forms of faith and spirituality. The traditional churches may no longer be able to do that and new forms of being and doing church will have to ‘emerge’. I  hesitate to even use the term ‘emerging church’, since it is a red flag for many that only gives rise to negative sentiments. But I am more and more convinced that we must allow the Spirit to let new forms of ‘being-church’ emerge, where people of 2016 can find answers for their questions and where the risen Lord can appear to those people who can no longer recognize him in the midst of the traditions of the past.