Message from the Pastor
Dear Members and Friends,
As I look around, I see great events playing out on the world stage: democracy is being brought to regions of the world that never really understood the dignity of individual citizens or the joy of liberty. WHO is working around the clock to stem the tide of SARS a disease which if not fought might become another plague. An unprecedented ability to communicate ideas and beliefs to any part of the world and to any person in the world is quickly becoming commonplace. And the ability to move produce and goods around the world makes it possible as never before to bring significant relief to regions of the world that suffer. These world-shaping events are so important. They are literally changing the course of history. And as I watch, I wonder. I wonder what I am doing here in this pulpit. If the real action isn’t out there doing the world shaping, and then I am reminded of two things.
First, I am reminded that no event in history has shaped the world like the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And Second, I am reminded of this simple fact about life. Life does not go on forever. There is death. Every one of us must face our mortality. There is no military victory, no medical cure, and no global village that can prepare any individual to answer the ultimate questions in life. And today I write to proclaim Hope the hope of Jesus’ Resurrection. There is death. Yes. But life is in Jesus Christ, the hope of our resurrection. When we approach the season of Easter we come with a sense of anticipation and longing. There are sobering questions on our minds and much hangs in the balance. Is there hope? Is there new life? Is there reason for joy? The answer to your questions has arrived this day. It is here waiting for you. It is a three-word message: Christ is raised! Good News for the depressed. Good News for those who have lost loved ones. Good News. Good News to those who have lost their joy. Christ is raised.
The most telling evidence of the resurrection is not the empty tomb but the transformation of the disciples. Their disappointment changed to exhilarating joy. Their fear changed to a joyous boldness. They assumed a new audacity and instead of hiding behind closed doors they stood before thousands proclaiming the Good News of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection story appears to be historical and not metaphorical. The disciples could never have simply believed in the resurrection of Jesus without it being true. Other than the resurrection itself, the tomb was discovered empty by women. Paul’s testimony supports the fact of the empty tomb because he claims he encountered the risen Christ. I can’t find any reasonable explanation that would cause an important, influential, intelligent man like Saul of Tarsus to change his beliefs and jeopardize his life and his freedom. The empty tomb story is part of the church’s tradition before the Gospels were even written. It is therefore very old. The story is simple and lacks legendary development. Likewise, archeology over the years has overwhelmingly proved the historical accuracy of the Gospels. If you need proof or evidence this is what can be offered. After this is a matter of faith. But this was enough for the disciples. It changed their lives.
Secondly, the resurrection of our view of death has changed. I cannot help but think how that first Easter was different. The women came in sorrow and left in joy. You see, because of Easter your whole view of death has forever changed. The Resurrection is the absolute bedrock of our faith. Take it away, and you no longer have a church. As St. Paul writes to the Corinthian church: “If Christ has not been raised from the dead then your faith is in vain and our teaching is in vain. Not only that, we have been found to be misrepresenting God, for we testified about God that God raised Christ from the dead.”
The resurrection affirms our instinctive conviction that death is not the end of a person’s story. Your story is rooted in the heart of God. It is, of course, true, that a day shall come when we shall all die and enough time will ultimately pass that no living person will speak our name. But the resurrection affirms that God will always know our name and that God will never stop loving us. Simply because our hearts have stopped beating, does not mean the last chapter has been written. And so it is not death that we should fear, it is sin that we should fear. Death has been swallowed up in victory. Even nature seems to want to scream out the loud news of resurrection at this time of the year. You cannot help but recognize the life that is all around. That which was dead, a seed, which fell to the earth and rotted, is alive again. Nature does not know extinction; it only knows transformation. If God applied that principle to the least of his creation, doesn’t it make sense that God also applies it to the Zenith of God’s creation: Humanity.
Because of the resurrection, our view of Jesus has changed. It is interesting that the story ends as it began. At the birth of Jesus the angel’s message to the shepherds is “Be not afraid”. When Mary comes to the tomb on that first Easter Sunday the message is: “Be not afraid”. We have come full circle. The message seems to be that despite the fact that we have been taught from childhood that God is love, the truth is we remain very frightened of God, and with good reason. We know God’s purity and we know our inadequacy.
But Now because of the resurrection, our whole understanding of God is different. Why? Because our understanding of Jesus is different, the one on the cross and the one who rose from the dead is none other than God incarnate. Because of the resurrection we see the disciples differently. We see death differently. We see Jesus differently. We see each other differently. Do not despair. The message that you have been waiting for has this day arrived. It is a three-word message: Christ is raised!
Wishing you and yours a blessed Easter season.
Yours in Christ,