“We have to go move the chairs. It’s Easter — the holiday of moving chairs . . . and talking about Jesus,” my youngest explains to his friend as I herd my kids into the car.
“What?” I ask, thinking that there are a thousand other ways to talk about the highest holy day on the church calendar. Moving chairs?
“Yeah, mom,” he answers grinning. “Jesus comes back to life; so we have to go move all the chairs!”
Well, I can’t really argue with him.
You see, our little suburban church is pretty full on any given Sunday. But on Easter? It is packed. And that means we need extra seats. So he’s right. We move the chairs — all of the chairs in the whole church go into the gym for Easter Sunday service.
My kids know the drill. They have spent years listening to all of the church dads give directions, pass out donuts, and insist on perfectly lined up rows. They are expert “chair- setter- uppers.” And so yes, Easter is the holiday where we move all the chairs.
But, before you begin picturing how holy and helpful we are. Know that every year we have this same conversation: “Why? Why do we have to move all these chairs? Why can’t someone else do all this work?” Yeah. Being those who make room for others to see Jesus isn’t always easy. And I get it. I can so quickly get lost in the work of it all.
Chairs bang and clang against the gym floor as this story from Scripture paints its way into my mind.
“Do you love me?” I hear Jesus ask it of Peter, three times. And three times Peter answers, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
“Feed my sheep,” Jesus tells Peter. (John 21:17)
The kids and the dads have filled the room, wall to wall with empty chairs. And I hear the Spirit whisper it again. “Do you love me? Then feed my sheep.”
I get right lost in the work of setting up the chairs, rehearsing all the songs, hiding the eggs; of getting this Easter thing just right.
But God? God sees the people. He sees the ones who will come through the doors under the steeple in freshly pressed dresses and suits, the ones who will struggle to wipe jelly bean stains from the hands of their littles, and shush the whining of slouching teenagers. The ones who rush in late and wonder if they belong, and the ones who will smile to hide the heartbreak crushing them inside.
And me. He sees me, right there among them, worried about doing it all right, about getting the work done.
Just help them find a seat, that’s all you need to do, God whispers to my anxious heart. I died and rose again for each one of them, and for you. Just sit down.
And slowly, I start to understand the why of all the work.
You see, in those chairs, the very ones hauled down the stairs by tired dads and goofy kids, God’s creation will sit. And as the sun casts long shadows across the gym floor and the music notes fill the air, God will do what He does best. He will speak with His people.
Like Mary Magdalene in the garden early that first Easter morning, He will come close enough to see right into our hearts and ask, “Who are you looking for?” (John 20:15)
And maybe in the sanctuary of Easter morning worship, maybe each of God’s sheep in all of these chairs will hear the sound that changes everything.
For Mary, it was her name.
“Mary,” Jesus said as she stood weeping and broken over the empty tomb. And that was when she knew. She raced back to the disciples barely able to contain her excitement. “I have seen the Lord!” she declared (John 20:16-18).
Just sit and watch me work, God whispers. In a gym on a suburban corner this Easter morning, the Holy One will draw near to those He loves.
And so we work. We are Easter people who move chairs, sing songs, say words, clasp hands, and feed sheep because He first loved us. We have come to know that the sound of our name on His lips changes everything.
And there is nothing sweeter than watching God move in and claim His own; one chair at a time.