Easter is God’s Message of Hope

My confidence in the arrival of Spring wanes in years of bitter winter nights and sluggish March days.   Yet, even when I doubt, God’s provision for Spring is already on its way. Today, I see slivers of hope. Leaves are thinking about pushing their way into our Minnesota landscape. Driving down my street,  I spotted a lone magnolia tree sporting some blooms.   Our lives follow a similar pattern. There are winter times, when life is hard. We go through days of struggling and working through our current trial. We wonder when the pain will end. We wonder if it ever will.

The day Jesus was crucified, his friends and family were devastated. All the events which transpired were outside of the control of his followers. Jesus on a cross brought little hope for any kind of a future, yet the record of history and God’s actions in the city of Jerusalem, tell us of a different reality. There is no keeping Jesus in the grave. Two thousand years bear record to that great truth.  Easter is God’s message  telling us not to  lose hope. God is working in our lives, even though it may not look like it at the moment.

Our hearts may break. We may despair. The power of Easter is that because Christ lives, we can live also. We can face tomorrow. We can do so without fear.  This Easter you may be troubled of spirit and soul.   There may be difficulties and trials. The bitter taste of rejection and injustice may linger.  Your heart may be buried in grief.  I have no easy answers. But, while much of God remains a mystery to us, of one thing I am sure. God is a God of resurrection power. Witnesses continue to proclaim this truth. In God’s providence, Easter will follow Good Friday. Life stirs into being after death. Spring inevitably arrives in spite of winter’s hold. New life is God’s gift to each of us.

Charles Wesley’s Easter Hymn “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” includes this verse:

“Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!”

May this Easter bring you hope. Where life has been hard, may you see glimmers of how  God is working in your life.  Where there has been the loss of one held dear, may you find hope in the mystery of Easter and God’s love for you and your lost loved ones.   May you be reassured that God holds tomorrow and is working, even now,  to make all things new.

I Believe in Easter

Desert Botanical Garden

I believe in Easter.    No one can prove for you the resurrection of Jesus.  My belief in Easter is set in life experiences and years of pastoral ministry. I believe in Easter, in part, because of the other resurrections in my life. We stumble and fall. We mess up our lives. We make huge mistakes that hurt others and ourselves. We fail more often than we want to admit to ourselves, and definitely not to others.  Our lives take painful turns.  We encounter losses and heartache.  Our world crashes around us.  We almost give in to despair.   Were it not, for God’s steadfast love and presence, we would give up.

 

I believe in the resurrection of Jesus because it simply doesn’t make sense to me that for two thousand years people have been fooled by a story that had no fact, no truth, no reality behind it. Or that this story would endure through all these years and be passed on from one generation to another.  It makes no sense to me that those cowardly disciples of Jesus would suddenly develop courage or that they would face dangers and hardship. Why would they be willing to give up their lives for a fraud? Someone else might have, but not that set of disciples who seemed more interested in getting to the top of the heap than serving God. It makes no sense that this skeptical group of disciples would have proclaimed Jesus as risen, unless they had personally experienced Jesus’ presence in some tangible  way. Not this set of disciples  – who doubted entirely Jesus’ resurrection, when the good news was brought to them.  Not these disciples who said, to themselves and each other,  this is “only an idle tale.”

 

For two thousand years one person has shared stories of encountering a living and resurrected Christ with  another.  People told of their lives changed for the better.  Thieves gave up on stealing. People struggling with addictions found strength for recovery. The angry bitter person started to love. All done through this Jesus. Hospitals were founded and the hungry fed in the name of Jesus. For two thousand years, people who had given up on life have found hope in the presence of Christ. In that encounter they have found meaning and purpose.   Those who felt themselves without love have discovered a God who loves unconditionally. Some, who  encountered the living Christ in a moment of crisis or defeat, found strength and a power outside themselves.  I believe in Easter – because the world is created in such a way that life always follows death – spring always follows winter.  I believe because there have been people in my life representing  God to me, who for no conceivable reason I could see, reached out to me in times I desperately needed someone to care.  I can only attribute that care and love to answered prayers – God’s people responding to need.

 

An empty tomb without a risen Christ would mean little. A risen savior who left no words behind or  wisdom to draw from, would be of little help. William Sloane Coffin say’s of Jesus “Miracles do not a messiah make, . . . But a messiah can do miracles. . . . I can also report that in home after home I have seen Jesus change beer into furniture, sinners into saints, hate-filled relations into loving ones, cowardice into courage, the fatigue of despair into the buoyancy of hope. In instance after instance, life after life, I have seen Christ be ‘God’s power unto salvation,’ and that’s miracle enough for me.”

 

I believe in Easter. I am confident that God can turn a life around, that death and sin can be overcome. I believe that God who loves us and came in Jesus Christ will have the last world.    There are really no proofs to the resurrection, only witnesses. Just witnesses transformed into one of God’s new creations.   Through  these last two thousand years,  people in all walks of life  have testified to the presence of the living Lord in their lives. They have found a grace which truly was sufficient for every need. Through that grace, they have lived difficult lives courageously, vibrantly and victoriously – for they knew they were never alone. However many times they were knocked down, they lived in the confidence God would be there to raise them above the place they fell.   Christ continues to offer that same gift today, to come as a friend, whenever a heart is prepared to receive the gift. Sometimes, it’s as simple of asking Jesus into your heart – or as scary as turning your life over to Christ and trusting that God means only good.  Today is a good day to let Easter,  and its promise,  into your heart.

 

Prayer – God, open my heart to receive you. I give you my fears,  my doubts, my cynicism  and  my skepticism. I offer my heart, my mind and spirit to you, trusting your love is wider than my fears, your compassion greater than my mistakes and your goodness large enough to receive me as I am. Amen

On the Path to Easter

As Jesus travels through Holy Week, he is surrounded by a sea of human need. He sees heartache and sorrow, the mingled tears of humanity. He confronts evil, challenges systems, restores hope. Compassionate eyes search for those he can bring hope to. He offers the wisdom of one who knows these are to be the words his followers will remember.

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The path to Easter is a mixture of celebration and pain. Good Friday inevitably stands in the path to Easter. Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. A crowd will shout its praises on Palm Sunday. The greedy and powerful are confounded when they and their trade are cast out of God’s sacred space. Healing occurs and some are blessed with restored health. One we love is betrayed by a close and trusted friend. Ugliness, the ugliness of a crowd that lets itself be swayed away from truth and into violence takes over. And the heart cries, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Whenever fear, death and darkness appear to win the day, we stand by Good Friday’s cross, asking the questions of faith. We do not have answers for most of our Good Friday questions. What we do have is One who walks with us through the Good Friday’s of life… One who stands with us when we encounter its pain and harshness… One who embraces us in the darkness of our personal Good Friday.

Easter stands forever as a reminder that God has the final word. Death is not more powerful than life. Easter comes with its joyful message! Its certain response to Good Friday’s heartache. “He Is Risen!”