Do you have your March Madness bracket filled out? Are you competing with a friend or relative this year? Maybe have a company pool? Or are you trying to win the $1 billion dollars being offered if you can manage a perfect bracket? Every year my wife and I fill out brackets and compete against each other for some silly prize like a Mt. Dew for me or a Starbucks drink for her. March Madness is the one time of the year that either of us really pay much attention to NCAA basketball. We are not what you might call “true” college basketball fans. Yet for some reason, we fill out our bracket every year. And I don’t think we are the only ones who suddenly take an interest in college basketball when the tournament rolls around.
It seems to me that Easter is to the church what March Madness is to NCAA basketball. Here are the five reasons why:
1. New people show up
With March Madness, people who’ve never had an interest in college sports before all of a sudden have a vested interest in certain teams winning their games. They begin to obsessively check online sports scoreboards, watching games on TV, and even cheering. They probably don’t even know the names of the players, but they know which team NEEDS to win. Easter is a time when people decide they need to get out of their homes and go to church. They may not even believe in Jesus or his resurrection, but they feel like they NEED to be in church that morning. They dress up nice. They bring their kids, kicking and screaming. Churches are fuller than most any other day of the year.
2. Old people show up
At March Madness time, fans who support their team verbally and perhaps by wearing a team shirt or hat from time to time but don’t really watch many games or even check the scores all of a sudden have a renewed interest in those teams. They jump back on the bandwagon as if they’d never left. They pull out old jerseys and foam fingers from the glory days and watch every game with excitement. Easter brings many people back to church as well, those who’d been quite irregular in attendance during the year but are still on the membership roll and still give an occasional donation to the church. At Easter, they come back and join the worshipping body as if they’d never been gone.
3. Hype is created
March Madness brings with it a great deal of hype. News media is sure to focus on the biggest rivalries and they try to predict the upsets. The NCAA creates advertising to spread the word about the tournament in order to draw new fans. And other companies capitalize on this hype by creating commercials that link their product to the NCAA and March Madness in order to boost sales. The hype is everywhere. Churches often like to capitalize on the Easter hype as well. They do more programs leading up to Easter. They have egg hunts and sunrise services. They cover the crosses on Palm Sunday in order to reveal them on Easter. They bury the Alleluias at the beginning of Lent and raise them up on Easter Sunday. Pastors work hard to create some hype around Easter worship.
4. Passion is ignited
People, fans or not, often find themselves getting very excited about the games during March Madness. With so many people watching the games, both in the arenas and on TV, you can almost feel the electricity. People yell at their screens, fans boo from the stands, and relationships face tension when the parties are rooting for opposing teams. People find a passion for the game that they didn’t know was inside them. At Easter, the excitement of a packed sanctuary and the message of Jesus’ resurrection give people a renewed hope. The congregations sings a little louder, they smile a little broader, and they stay longer after the service to fellowship with one another. If for only that one day, they exhibit a passion that has long lay dormant.
5. Someone is always disappointed
When all is said and done with March Madness, one team wins and a lot of teams lose. Someone always goes home disappointed. Easter provides great hope in the church, but when life returns to normal, it is almost always the case that someone is disappointed. Perhaps they are disappointed with the songs that were sung. Perhaps they are disappointed in the sermon that was preached. Maybe they didn’t get as many eggs at the egg hunt as the other participants. Maybe they just don’t feel like church did for them what they hoped it would do. Whatever it may be, someone always leaves disappointed.
So, what do you think? Is Easter the March Madness of the Church? If you concur, are there any reasons that you would add to this?