Defying a decree issued by the late Pope Shenouda III prohibiting members of the Coptic Church from visiting Jerusalem, Egyptian Copts are for the first time flying to the Holy Land in large numbers to celebrate Easter. However, it has now been reported that some of them are being denied entry into churches upon arrival.
Copts were among the thousands of Christians gathered near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built at a site where Jesus was crucified and buried, for Easter Saturday. However, St. Helena Chapel at the church within the walled Old City of Jerusalem denied entry to them, Egyptian state-run news agency MENA reported.
"We neither allowed them to pray nor to break their fast," a chapel priest identified only as Mesaael was quoted as saying. "That infuriated them to the extent that some of them wanted to fight us. The priest added that Pope Shenouda's instructions were still valid and "we have to respect them even more than we did when he was alive." more >>
How do we as Christians deal with the whole topic of the "pagan" celebration of Easter verses the Christian holiday of Resurrection Sunday? Do we avoid all things that reek of jelly beans or chocolate Easter bunnies during this most holy of weekends? Do we refuse to allow our children to participate in Easter's version of trick-or-treat (aka "the Easter egg hunt")?
While I'm not going to try to tackle these beyond-my-pay-grade questions, I do think that many Christians miss a huge opportunity when it comes to Easter. This becomes especially clear when we watch how the early Christians used pagan traditions as a pulpit to preach the gospel. The Apostle Paul himself dealt with the year-round paganism of Athens by sterring the negative of their rituals toward the positive of the resurrection. His reaction to their godless traditions provide some powerful lessons for us.
First of all he had a broken heart over the fact that the people of Athens were missing the point. In Acts 17:16 Luke writes, "While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols." The great apostle wandered the streets of Athens leaving a trail of tears everywhere he went. These Greeks were worshipping created things rather than the Creator and it tore him up. He so longed for them to know the true God! more >>
Perhaps the reason many people don't get excited about Easter is that they do not know the full meaning of Jesus' resurrection and are not viewing the holy day in "3D," said Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren during one of the first of his weekend service messages Friday.
Warren related the fact that 3D movies have grown in number and popularity recently because some people believe they offer a "fuller experience," using the analogy as an illustration that shows that there is more to the Easter story than what many may perceive as one-dimensional.
He will be giving his Easter sermon at the megachurch located in Lake Forest, Calif., several times in order to accommodate 35 church services held on the main campus and satellite campuses throughout Orange County and neighboring Riverside County through Sunday. All Saddleback's Easter services are broadcast on the church's website as well. more >>
The second-most senior figure in the worldwide Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of York, has recorded three video messages to mark Easter this year.
The videos include short reflections by Dr. John Sentamu for Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, and have been added to social media website YouTube.
The Archbishop said it was important that the Church gets the good news of Easter out to as many people as possible. more >>
The final countdown to Easter Sunday is here. Churches across the nation are putting the final touches on sermons, worship songs and preparation for large crowds on a day when many unchurched and dechurched decide to attend services.
Willow Creek Community Church is anticipating a crowd of more than 40,000 people at one of their six Easter services on April 7 and 8. Creative Director Blaine Hogan said that Easter services are a challenge because they come so soon after Christmas, and it's always a question of, "How do I make it new or different this year."
He noted on the South Barrington, Ill., church website that the hardest part of planning for services is coming up with the initial idea or theme for the year. But once that is done, things begin to fall into place. more >>
To celebrate Easter Sunday, a production company in Michigan will be performing a medley of popular musical pieces from religiously-themed productions.
The Fourth Wall, an arts and entertainment venue in Jackson, will be performing "The Bible According to Broadway" on Friday and Saturday evening.
The production will include talented locals from the Jackson, Michigan area. Songs performed by the extensive cast will include opuses from "Godspell," "Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," "Fiddler On The Roof," and "Jesus Christ Superstar." more >>