Easter Sunday is the most important day in the Christian calendar. Christians believe it is when Jesus Christ arose from the dead—two days after Good Friday, when he was crucified.
According to a Gallup study done in 2008, church attendance in the United States is almost 30 percent higher on Easter than on other Sundays. Priests, ministers and pastors—regardless of their denominations—are reaching out to larger, often less-observant, audiences.
And for some, the gravity of the holiday coupled with fuller pews, adds to the pressure to deliver a powerful sermon on Easter Sunday.
"There are numerous challenges to preaching on Easter—not least of which is that I have been preaching for 20 years and finding new ways to share the same message," said Pastor Jen Boyd of in Southeast. "The process of developing a sermon involves reading through the biblical text, commentaries on the text, reflecting with other clergy about the things that they have learned or thought about it, reading blogs, other sermons, illustrations and the like. I seek to find a focus to all my reading and reflections, letting it percolate most of the week and then make room for the Holy Spirit to speak through me."
For the average layperson, even thinking about having to write and deliver a powerful speech that conveys an accessible and compelling message every week is enough to send shivers up the spine—but for members of the clergy, it's just part of the job.
"I don't feel any more pressure than on other Sundays," said Rev. Hyo Jung (Dawn) Yoon, of . "I usually try to start with a message of Hope."
The common theme for all the clerics we spoke to was that Easter is a time to reaffirm their congregations' beliefs in God and spirituality—to celebrate the sense of fulfillment that faith can offer.
"We don't just celebrate something that happened a long time ago; we celebrate the present powerful action of God in our lives today and respond by stepping out in that power to love and be loved in the inexhaustible love of God, who can and who does more than we can ask or imagine," said Rev. Claire Woodley-Aitchison, Rector at
Father Fernan of St. Matthew Roman Catholic Church in Hastings has every right to be a little disappointed this year. from the church itself, and then his a few weeks later.
However, Father Fernan doesn't focus on the negative when preparing his Easter sermon. Instead, he focuses on the unique joy Christians feel on Easter.
"My Easter Homily preparation begins weeks before–or sometimes months— through spiritual readings and personal experiences," he said. "These most sacred days also offer a ever-developing sense that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit leads me through Holy Thursday through Good Friday to Easter Sunday in a devine progression. My final homily as yet to be set but it centers on the unique message of Jesus, the Son of God being risen from the dead. Oh, the joy which should be in our hearts, oh the change which our lives should reflect."
Paster Dawn Yoon agrees: "The inspiration for my Easter sermon is always God's unfathomable love. Because death has been swallowed up in victory—that is the essential message of Easter."
and San Marcos Mission said she's still in the process of working out the details of her Sunday sermon.
"The truth is Holy Week for most clergy is the busiest week of the year," she said.
What Copley does know about her sermon: She will mention a girl's drawing she found left behind in a pew with "God!!!" written in colorful yellow, pink and blue.
"To me, that preaches. This is all about God. What better way to celebrate?"
Do you remember a particular sermon that resonated with you? What was it about? Why did it make such an impact on you?"