A Word from Our Pastor 2015 March

The first Sunday in April is Easter! This is always a happy time in church, our biggest celebration. We see some people only at Easter and Christmas, for whom the Christmas play and the Easter egg hunt are the main events. That’s fine – we’re happy to see everyone whenever they feel good about coming to church! But for others of us, it might be a good time to reflect on the question: “Why is Easter such a big deal?” “How does Jesus’ rising from the dead affect my life??” Perhaps the answers to these questions will help us to celebrate Easter in a deeper and more meaningful way. . .

You may have heard it said that Easter is the foundation of Christian faith. Everything we believe, and most of our spiritual experience, is tied to our faith that Jesus rose from the dead. The church has taught from ancient times that Jesus’ resurrection is THE confirmation: it proves that Jesus was of God, it proves that the things Jesus taught and did were of God; it proves that God’s mercy and power are greater than death. Further, it proves that Christ is “alive” still (but not in physical form) – and communicates God’s love and presence to us through the Spirit. The resurrection also teaches us that, like Christ, we have the possibility of the gift of “eternal life.”

In the old days (and still in some places), Christians were taught that there was a good possibility of going to hell if they didn’t behave. Every day provided an opportunity to make a choice for good or evil, for death or eternal life. And, many people lived in fear that they would not make it into heaven. However, “eternal life” can mean at least two things: 1) the life “hereafter,” that is, life after death. This is the most common understanding – but this does not reflect everything that Scripture says. 2) Particularly in the Gospel of John, “eternal life” is right now, right here:

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

So this is one vital thing that it means for us everyday: eternal life is not some far-off event, but eternal life, in this passage, is the gift of our being able to know God and Jesus Christ. If you don’t consider yourself as someone who knows God, just picture the benefits described in Psalm 23: God is your shepherd, who sees to your every need, who gives you the peace and abundance of green pastures and still waters, who restores your soul. That’s just one picture of what it is like to live in relationship with God. . . there’s also finding meaning and purpose in your life, in your BHAG (“Big, hairy, audacious God-purpose.”) God also inspires and empowers us to serve others – which we are told over and over again in Scripture, is a source of joy and peace. Of course, this does not mean that eternal life is an escape clause for suffering. Suffering is part of life, but one thing that makes it tolerable is the presence of God’s love that we experience through the Spirit and by the community who cares for us.

Many of you may have learned this verse as children: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). I invite you to hear this verse in a new way – it is not talking about life after death! Because of God’s love and the life of Jesus, we can have a relationship with God that will expand, deepen and bring joy into our daily lives. Easter can be every day!

Easter also involves a choice: will you choose love or death? Again, I am not talking about heaven or hell; I am asking you choose whether you will live in harmony with the words and deeds of Jesus, whether you will open your heart and surrender to the love that awaits you. Hopefully our church offers you plenty of opportunities to exercise that choice in prayer, study and service. It is a choice we make once in a lifetime and every morning as we face a new day.

How will you celebrate Easter today?