Drive down Washington Road and as soon as you pass the turn-off for I-20 you begin seeing all the signs: “Tickets wanted, any day. I came from California – just need one ticket.”
If you are one of the chosen, as you walk to the Augusta National Golf Club, you’ll see people all around you holding up one finger, or two, indicating the number of tickets they need. And you pass right by them all, because you’ve got the Golden Ticket that lets you in to a place so many only dream about.
The exclusivity of the Masters is part of the allure; to be on the inside rather than the outside looking in. But since this past week has been Christianity’s Holy Week, I’ve had a different take on our tournament.
What if you had a badge for the Masters and as you passed by all these people who need tickets and you could say, “I have your ticket. Come on in. You’re going to the Masters.”
The holy week of golf in Augusta can be about who can get in and can’t. But our Holy Week as Christians has been about one man, our Master, Jesus Christ.
Jesus isn’t about exclusivity, but inclusivity. Jesus isn’t about keeping people out but bringing people in. Jesus is able to say to each of us, “I have your ticket right here. Come on in. You’re going with the Master.”
That’s the invitation of Easter, to walk with Jesus, the Risen Lord.
If a golf lover was given the opportunity to go to the Masters, he or she would jump at the opportunity. But when we are given the opportunity to walk with the Master, the reaction is somewhat different. There’s hesitation.
Maybe we hesitate because we’re a bit like Groucho Marx who said, “I would never want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.”
I’ve loved the couple of times I’ve been to the Masters but at the same time I also felt like a trespasser, someone who didn’t really belong. Because I don’t play golf, I don’t have any of the neat togs that golf patrons seem to have. I sometimes feel like a candidate for one of those makeover shows when I compare myself to the glamour that surrounds me there.
Then there is the experience of never knowing exactly what’s going on. Although I can recognize some of the players, I don’t know their stats like people around me. I’ll be at one hole and then somewhere from across the course, I’ll hear a huge roar from the crowd and wonder, “What happened? What have I missed?”
For more than one person here what I’ve just described is not a golf tournament but their experience with church. We’re not sure we have the right clothes, we have no idea what everybody is talking about or if John 3:16 is some kind of funky golf score and when people are shouting, “Christ has risen, the Lord has risen indeed,” we wonder, what happened? What have I missed?
If you think I’ve just described a newcomer’s experience with the church, I’ve also just described the experience of the first Easter morning, when no one really knew what was going on, only that something had happened.
Mary Magdalene and some others got the message almost immediately, but if you read through the resurrection stories, you’ll realize that many didn’t have a clue. You and I are in good company when it comes to encountering Easter with questions in addition to awe and wonder.
This Easter know that you are here because of Jesus, who has personally invited you – just as you are. You don’t have to worry about what you are wearing or what you may or may not know because it is Jesus who has said to you, “I’ve got your ticket. Come on in. You’re going with the Master.” Doesn’t that change everything?
My invitation to you is to come in and be with the Master who loves you, who redeems you, who saves you. Know that you are in a roomful of fellow learners who are also being instructed by the Master. And the roar of the crowd? It’s a roar of welcome for the Messiah – and for you.