Easter’s hope is not only of life resurrected after Christ’s death or the death of loved ones or even ourselves in the hereafter; I believe it is also the profound promise of life - our lives – in the here and now, resurrected from fear filled dead ends and transformed through love forevermore.
Look, everything about Jesus’ earthly life, from prophecies to his birth, in his words and actions, and through his death and resurrection was and is a testament to God’s love. And Jesus summarizes all the law and prophets in a single, Great Commandment: to “Love;” “Love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls; AND to love our neighbors, strangers, those we are estranged of find strange, our enemies, poor people, people from all nations, nationalities, widows, orphans, the outcast, cast out and even ourselves.
And our story could end there, but the naked truth is that it has never been that simple. We live in a world that is anything but loving. Our hearts, minds and souls; worldviews, self-views, behaviors and attitudes are fragmented by fear, burdened by worries and regrets, preoccupied with perceptions and expectations and populated with all kinds of messages that intentionally and unintentionally distract, disconnect and deceive us from seeing, being, believing and living for who we truly are. And the naked truth is that a small number of hurtful words and negative experiences to feel unwanted, unloved and so vulnerable we want to hide who we truly are on the inside.
Several years ago in a congregation that I served which had experienced significant conflict and decline I’m in fellowship hall following worship one Sunday and there is an elderly congregant peering over a fork full of fruit cobbler. She has been in the community for a dozen years or so and comes most Sundays. Early on she says she asked a lot of questions and had a few suggestions, however after one too many “we don’t…, we can’t…, we never…” she decided it was “best” not to get too involved. And so there she is, peering over this forkful of cobbler, deciding whether or not to risk asking a question or making a suggestion once more. “Could our congregation do something together as a Christmas gift to others?”
I respond, “I’m sure we could, how about you ask around and see what you come up.” Questions are asked, conversations multiply, walls come down, and soon the whole congregation begins to wonder and wander together once more. A jar is put out. A poster put up in the front of the church, which reads “Let’s have a Cow for Christmas!?” And soon individual nickels, dimes and dollars become so much more together. We don’t buy one cow – we buy three! Three cows sent to three families in three villages in three regions of the world providing enough income to break the cycle of poverty and prevent the sexual exploitation of three young girls. And just like her question began to change the perspective, culture and attitude in the congregation and together we changed three small corners of the world. And our story could end there, but it isn’t always that easy…