A Pastor's First Easter

By Matt Sapp

By Matt Sapp

Jobs are tough sometimes. Some jobs are tough all the time. I’ve had jobs like that before. Some of you have jobs like that now. There’s truth to the saying that there are two types of jobs in the world: the kind that require that you take a shower before you go in and the kind that require that you take a shower when you get home.

I spent a summer building backyard privacy fences in a new subdivision outside of Warner Robins, GA. I’ve never been as tired and dirty and sunburned as I was after my first day on the job. My main responsibility was to carry 80 pound bags of Quikrete to fill post holes with--sometimes in wheelbarrows, and when the ground was too soft, on my shoulder. You don’t know hot until you’ve spent an August building privacy fences in middle Georgia.

Some of you will already know that my last job before becoming a minister was on a loading dock at a household appliance distribution warehouse. I spent twelve hour shifts loading washing machines and dishwashers and refrigerators onto tractor-trailers.

So whenever anyone asks me now how my day has been or what ministry is like, I think to myself, “Well, I haven’t had to pick up any refrigerators today.”

It turns out though that being a pastor isn’t always easy, either. In fact, sometimes it’s downright difficult. The days can be long. If you’re not careful in how you plan your week, you can miss having anything resembling a weekend. People can be challenging to work with. Problems can be difficult to work through.

And few times of year are more demanding on a minister than Holy Week. There’s extra attention, extra services, extra pressure.  As a pastor you want everything to be perfect because you know you have some people’s attention during Holy Week that you won’t have at any other time of year. This is your one chance to get it right with some people.

So there’s a familiar refrain among pastors on Easter Sunday afternoons, “Christ is risen. The preacher is dead.”

This year was my first Easter—my first Holy Week—as a pastor of a congregation. There were extra activities and services and responsibilities. And there was the pressure of added attention.

But let me let you in on a little secret. There’s a unique quality to leading a local band of Christians during Holy Week, and it’s awesome.

I learned a lot about church leadership as an associate minster, and I was fortunate enough to be able to lead and preach and teach in a lot of situations as an associate pastor at my previous church. But the leadership responsibilities of Holy Week in any church are reserved for one person—the lead pastor.

The associate pastor, the youth minister, the minister of education, will never get to preach on Easter Sunday, or pray over the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday. Only the pastor gets to do those things. And only the pastor gets to stand in the pulpit on Easter Sunday morning and read from Holy Scripture the magical account of an empty tomb—to proclaim to the world that Jesus is alive.

There’s nothing quite like the privilege of standing in front of a gathering of Christians and saying the words, “He isn’t here. He has risen.”  There’s nothing quite like the honor of speaking the words of God to the people of God on Easter Sunday. The people of Heritage Baptist Fellowship have extended that privilege and honor to me, and I am grateful. Thank you.

When you grow up wanting to be a baseball player you dream of playing in the World Series. When you grow up wanting to be a lawyer you dream of high profile courtroom showdowns. When you grow up wanting to be a doctor, you dream about pioneering a life-saving procedure.  When you grow up wanting to be a politician, you dream about the White House. When you grow up wanting to be a pastor, you dream about leading on Easter Sunday.

Not everybody gets to earn a living doing what they love to do. Most Christians find themselves living out their God-given callings beyond their career fields as Sunday School teachers or community volunteers, as prayer partners and hospitality team members.

I’m lucky enough to love what I do for a living. My calling is my career. And Easter is my World Series. Thanks for letting me play. It’s the dream of a lifetime.

See you Sunday.