Editor’s Note: The weekend can be an incredibly distressing time for many pastors to enter into. The desire to spend quality time with family while juggling the pressures of an unfinished sermon can be an exhausting reality. What many pastors need are not more tips on how to prepare better sermons as much as some encouragement to better prepare their hearts to preach the sermon they have. Join Ronnie Martin every Friday for The Preachers Corner, where he offers some words of comfort and stories of hope to help preachers enter the weekend encouraged by the gentle and lowly heart of Jesus. 

One of the early signs that spring is drawing near is when I hear the birds begin to sing. I’ll be in my library (ok, it’s an enclosed porch with books) when, right before the sun rises, a symphony of birdsong surges joyously through the morning air. It’s a chorus that thoroughly affects me, and in my better moments, reminds me to thank God that winter will not be forever. 

This Easter, more than any other, is a reminder of the long year of winter we have experienced due to the global pandemic. It was only 12 months ago that my worship leader and I were planning our livestream for Easter Sunday and now, a year later, we’re seeing registrations steadily fill up for our in-person gatherings. Despite this good and glorious progression, I still have one nagging fear, and it’s that Easter 2021 will feel like just another Easter. Am I alone in this? I really don’t think so. 

So how do we approach a service as special as Easter, but one that can quickly become a perfunctory exercise for pastors? 

I’m going to be very simple today (granted, I am every day) and say that my whimsical illustration at the beginning holds the key to what some of us may be lacking: thankfulness. So here are three things that might help our hearts be moved to greater thankfulness. Yes, I’m going to struggle with all three of these simple suggestions, too.  Maybe we can struggle together?

Pause – I know that Holy Week has the reputation of being one of the busiest weeks of the year and for some of you it may well be, but taking some intentional time to hit pause will allow you to turn the volume down on some of the noise of the week. What does it mean to “hit pause?” I think it means, whatever you’re doing…stop.

Ponder – But don’t just pause…ponder. Take a walk, listen to some music, find a bench in the park, and fix your eyes on something beautiful. Give your mind a minute to imagine the resurrection and to focus on the face of Christ and the stark beauty of our painful and tear-filled redemption. Let your soul be moved by Christ’s movement toward us.
Pray – Whatever your week has been like, it’s not too late to come before the Lord in both helplessness and hopefulness. Talk to Him about the year you’ve had, and share your hopes and fears with Him about the weekend ahead. Plead with Him to declutter your mind and fill your heart with a newfound song of praise and thanksgiving. 

Letting your heart be moved to thankfulness will be some of the best sermon prep you can do before Easter Sunday, which is not just another Easter, but another Easter to rejoice, be glad, and to hear the birds sing. Again.