April 15th… That college application… The book report for Language Arts class… Calls for Proposals… Court dates… Whatever form they take in our busy lives, there’s no denying that we all face deadlines (and some folks better than others). As the pastor of Mountain Hill Community Church and one of the clergy board members of Broken Door Ministries, one of my deadlines is called “Sunday”. Each week, Sunday stands as a deadline for another sermon and another worship service. This week’s 4th Day Letter was, at one time, another deadline on my calendar. I also suspect that most of us would tend to think of deadlines negatively. (After all, who warms up to a term that has the word dead in it?) Yet that’s not always the case. Deadlines help to prevent us from becoming stagnant; and in the case of project management, are associated with milestone goals, accolades and advanced payment. However, if you’re like this broken minister who procrastinates more than he’d care to admit, then you probably have a love/hate relationship with deadlines. On the one hand, I don’t take to well to deadlines because the creative and organic nature of sermon writing and theological reflection doesn’t always fit nicely into a defined timeframe. On the other hand, if it weren’t for deadlines I suspect that much of my work would go unfinished. Someone once said, “The difference between a dream and a goal is a deadline.” I like that.
So what’s with all this talk about deadlines? Well, another Sunday deadline looms in the distance but this time it’s Easter. How many of us have ever thought of Easter as a deadline? I’d guess not many, and yet it was a deadline of sorts. In John’s gospel particularly, we hear Jesus saying over and over that His time has not yet come (John 2:4; 7:6-8, 30; 8:20; 13:1; 17:7; Matthew 26:18). And in Matthew’s gospel, after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, we read these words, “From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Matthew 16:21). Clearly the death and resurrection of Jesus operated as a kind of deadline or time limit for Him. There was an appointed time for Christ to go to the cross, an appointed time for Him to die, an appointed time for His burial, and an appointed time for His resurrection. All across the globe, brothers and sisters in Christ celebrate this deadline called Easter.
While many Christians will be attending special Holy Week services this week as one way of remembering Jesus’ Passion, others will tend to focus exclusively on the events of Easter Sunday. In either case, might we look at these coming days not only as a reminder of Jesus’ earthly deadline but of our own deadline and ask:
- When my literal “deadline” comes, can I honestly say that I’ve accepted, by faith, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as the sacrifice for my sins and my hope of eternal life? If not, let me encourage you to do that today. Find a Christian friend, pastor or priest that will come alongside you and help you begin that relationship.
- Am I setting deadlines for myself in terms of my own spiritual growth (i.e. reading a theological book, reading through the Bible, meeting with friends to discuss our faith, journaling what God reveals to me each day/week/month, etc.)?
- If I set a deadline, say 1 month from Easter, to invite a friend to come with me to church, would I be more likely to accomplish it?
- Will I offer to help my church reach some of the deadlines it’s established this year in accomplishing its mission and outreach efforts to connect people with Christ?
- And when it comes to mundane deadlines like projects at school or work, may we remember that Jesus gave His very life in fulfillment of the task set before Him. Shouldn’t we, then, seek to give our best efforts towards our deadlines as a testimony to Christ in us, rather than wait until the last minute and only do enough to get by?
National Tax Day in the United States (i.e. April 15th) isn’t a date that I particularly look forward to. But because it’s on the calendar every year I know I have work to do. Writing next week’s sermon or a 4th Day Letter for my friend and colleague is a deadline that always leads to blessing. Can the deadline of Resurrection Sunday be more than putting on new clothes, going to church, and eating a big meal? Can the reality of Easter move me to grow in my personal relationship with the Lord and get me busy sharing and showing the love of Jesus with others around me?
Heavenly Father, thank you for fulfilling your Easter deadline for the forgiveness of my sins and the hope of everlasting life. May I always keep my deadlines as a testimony to you in all that I do on a daily basis.
Special thanks to Pastor Lee Norris for writing this week’s 4th Day Letter while I am out of the country celebrating my 60th birthday and 40th wedding anniversary. The byline at the top is formatted and can’t be changed to acknowledge our guest writers while I am away.