Expressions have changed, but the theology must be clear and unchanging, especially on Easter.
“People feel at least one Sunday of the year they need to go to church and hopefully God will speak to them then,” she said.
In its half-century, North Bethesda United Methodist has seen founding members die and the neighborhood grow more diverse racially and religiously. Half the congregation, Scott says, is former Catholics.
“That’s why we are intentional about not even being so religious or Christian” on the sign, she said. “That’s been our benchmark.”
Yet Easter presents a challenge. The story of Jesus’s death and rise is the core of the Christian Gospel. The purpose of the sign is to pull people in, but for what cause? It’s intended to be thought-provoking, but to what end?
Scott’s Sunday sermon wrestles with the drama and supernatural nature of the Easter story. That’s why the sermon title is a question: What happened that morning?
“It’s so beyond our understanding, to try and put it in definitive words is impossible. But the essence is that in that moment, death was overcome. And we all experience death in many ways — the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, or cancer, or a broken relationship. We have all sorts of deaths in our lives,” Scott said. “But the message of Easter is that there is a hope beyond all death that sustains us and is God’s promise to us.”
Bill Hansen, pastor at Emmanuel Baptist on Route 28 in Manassas, said 100,000 people drive each day past his LED sign. On Easter, he wants to be crystal clear about his church’s purpose.
“The scripture quotes or sayings end up being a filler. Now is the time to encourage most of all non-Christians to come, and to reach out to people who haven’t been in a while. It’s like the Catholics are saying to their people — it’s time to come back. Easter is the season for all that.”