Easter is typically a holiday during which Christians gather to worship the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but this Sunday will remind churchgoers what it was like in Jesus’s time, Impact Church Pastor Nick Rucker says.
“I want to take people back to the very first Easter,” Rucker said about his upcoming Easter message. “Because when we look during that time, people weren’t gathered together corporately like we’re used to now.”
Rucker said early followers of Christ were persecuted and sometimes faced with physical harm when they left their homes during that time, mirroring how it feels to be stuck at home now with a physical threat looming out in the public.
“As churches, we often say that we would love to have a little bit of what the early church had. And I think now, because we’ve been forced to be like we are with this coronavirus, what better opportunity for us to be like the early church than right now,” Rucker said.
The physical threat of COVID-19 is probably much different from what early Christians experienced, Rucker said, but the idea of being stuck in homes with an external fear still resonates today. Rucker said contemporary and early Christians also share a similar outlook — hope.
“(They) all believed in the same hope that the Savior has risen, and because of that risen Savior, there’s an enormous hope that they were looking forward to,” Rucker said. “And I think that’s the hope we still have today.”
Pastor Michael Kimberly, the new pastor at Sardis Baptist Church who will be giving his first sermon in Hartwell on Easter Sunday, said in his message he wants to emphasize “where our hope is found, even in the midst of trouble and things we’re going through.”
“It’s because of the resurrection that we have hope in this life,” Kimberly said. “This virus, or whatever we’re going through, it’s a bad deal, but it’s not the end of all things for believers. We have hope in the midst of it and in spite of it.”
Kimberly said Jesus never promised people freedom from hardship or trials.
“As a matter of fact he told us they would happen,” Kimberly said. “... He never promised to be free from them. He promised to be with us through them.”
Rucker and Kimberly, along with pastors across the state, will be faced with the challenge of pre-recording, or live streaming, their sermons without an audience due to social distancing requirements, something both local pastors aren’t fully comfortable with yet. Rucker said he’s getting better at preaching to a camera, but he’ll be glad when he’s back to having personal interactions.
“I can’t speak for any other pastor, but for me it is super awkward,” Rucker said. “... I love people and I like to connect with people, so the people element helps when I’m face-to-face with people.”
Kimberly, who is originally from Wilmington, N.C. but has spent most of his life in Douglasville, said he’ll be recording his sermon on Saturday and posting it to Sardis Baptist’s website and social media on Sunday.
“It’s strange and awkward to be honest. I’m not the best at video, but I have to remind myself I’m not talking to a camera, I’m talking to people through a camera,” Kimberly said. “Plus, I just love to preach, so I don’t need a big crowd to get excited.
Other local churches will be bringing a bit of tradition to the new social distanced church service by live streaming sunrise services.
Others, like Sharon Presbyterian, will host drive-in sermons at which attendees will be able to tune into an FM frequency to hear their Easter service.