One of the best things about what I do as a Pastor and a Chaplain is that I hear lots of stories. As I sojourn in and out of hospitals, nursing homes, and churches, the many rich accounts of people’s lives continue to amaze me. Some are profoundly sad, some are incredibly joyous, all include relationships of love and some of hate. The narratives underlying the daily existence of many people is often an alchemical mix of genuine altruism and mindless neglect. Since we live on this fallen planet with its strange combination of amazing beauty and severe conditions, it only makes sense that the people of the earth experience the wide range of emotions and experiences from grief to joy. No matter who I speak with, wherever they are from, we all need hope.
Earl (not his real name) had brain surgery. It effected his speech. Earl labors to speak and communicate. Indeed, he struggles so much to do so that I can only pick out bits and pieces of what he is trying to say to me. The work of talking is made even more frustrating with the fact that Earl was once an extroverted pastor who made his living talking and speaking and offering words of hope. Now he can barely get a sentence out his mouth.
Punctuated throughout most of our conversation were swear words of which he apologized. Instead of poo-pooing this wonderful older minister for his imprecations, I invited us to swear together. For several minutes, what must have looked kooky crazy to any angels looking on, we sat and swore. Earl and I expressed our anger, disappointment, and tears over the loss of a precious gift.
Then, after we had a good session of lament, I read the timeless story of a person who conquered everything that is wrong and unjust in this world. Jesus suffered like no other before or since. He felt loss. He knew grief firsthand. He died.
But death could not hold him in the grave. The power of God raised Christ the Lord to new life. Now, the life of Jesus is my life, and Earl’s life. I didn’t read the glorious story of Jesus to change Earl’s feelings or even to try and make him feel better. I read the story because its real, its true, and it is the Christian’s hope.
I believe the words of 1 Corinthians 15:20 are right:
“Christ has been raised to life! And he makes us certain that others will also be raised to life.”
Every hope, each promise, and all expectations for Christians everywhere are completely and totally realized in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Easter, or more aptly, Resurrection Day, is the highest holy day of the entire year for followers of Jesus. One of the great things about Easter is that it is not only one day in the Christian Year – it comprises 40 days leading to the day of Pentecost and the giving of the Spirit. That means we celebrate the truth “Jesus is alive!” for six wonderful Spring weeks. We purposefully take a good look at our hope.
The somber reflection of Lent with its emphasis on confession of sin and repentance now flowers into the exultant joy and celebration of new life. The call and response of Christians in the glorious season of Easter is “He is risen!” “He is risen, indeed!”
If there ever was a time for the church to give testimony to the redeeming and saving work of Jesus, it is on Resurrection Day and throughout the Easter season (often referred to as “Eastertide”). Now is the appropriate time for fellow believers to hear from their brothers and sisters in Christ, how he has brought them renewal – a new outlook and perspective; a new way of relating to others; a new purpose; a completely new life. We are so tied and in union with Jesus that his resurrection is our resurrection. Christ’s rising to new life gives us hope.
Earl has hope. I have hope. You have hope. The effects of the fallen world will not always have its way on the earth. Christ is crucified. Christ is risen. Christ is coming again.