Finding That Easter Perspective

As we ponder the Easter season and the heart of our faith in Jesus, as the Risen Christ of God… how does the concept of resurrection impact your life? Is it real for you, or just a story told by a small group of ancient Jewish people over 2000 years ago?

We are continually challenged with the task of believing in truth or in fiction. None of us want to be duped by fake news stories we thought to be true or were told were true. So, we throw up a defense by saying that “you can’t believe everything you read, or hear.” Has our culture successfully molded us into cynics who are more and more willing to accept that things in life have no truth to them? If so, where do we place the art of storytelling to help us discover hidden truths, elusive truths, or God’s truths? Is storytelling just another way of saying something that isn’t true in order to find the truth? Admittedly, it can get a little complicated.

We humans have the mental and intuitive ability to discern what is factually true with regard to science and empirical truths of human and animal natures – at least the ones which can be repeated over and over, and witnessed by the masses. Throughout history, strong and healthy cultures and societies are built with common belief systems and strong disciplined adherence to the communal laws and institutions.

But what happens when trust in these become eroded? When does the truth matter? Does it matter in every aspect of life, say, in business, politics, religion, science, journalism, and entertainment? In the wake of the Madoff and other Ponzi schemes, Lance Armstrong, the Wall Street mortgage collapse, and the Edward Snowden intelligence scandal, perhaps some would say the truth only matters if you get caught.

In the case of religion – especially Christianity, we admit that the things we believe in are based in faith – not fact. We cannot prove or disprove “resurrection” – the very center of our faith.

What we do, then, is to listen to the stories from those earliest believers and try to hear from their words and experiences how believing in Christ’s resurrection reshaped their own view of God and of themselves. The truth they were living under about the Messiah was one truth, until they experienced Jesus. When he was crucified, that truth was also put to death. Then, the “unexplainable” experience of his resurrection allowed them to take a second look at Jesus and his hope for God’s kingdom to become real.

For those earliest followers of Jesus, after this experience, they realized that their error was a matter of believing and telling the wrong story…or, at least believing and telling the right story in the wrong way. But now, after encountering a risen Christ, and with the right story in their head and hearts, a new possibility started to emerge before them.

Would they dare suppose Jesus’ execution was not the clear disproof of his Messiahship, but that the cross actually validated his passion and his willingness to be martyred for God’s cause?

Suppose the cross was not one more example of the triumph of the Empire over God’s people but was actually God’s means of rising above evil once and for all?

Suppose this was, after all, how sins were to be forgiven and how this kingdom of love and inclusion of the “least in the world” was to come?

How often do we try to squeeze what we are told happened on Easter morning into our understanding of the world and how things work in the world?

And, then, after we have experienced what we might consider the worst thing that could happen to us or to our world, only to step back and see it from a new and different perspective – let’s say from an “Easter Perspective” – it’s the other way around.

Our new understandings of the world begin to fit into the reality of a resurrection world where we come to know a love that is more powerful than death, a love that conquers all, even the evil power of lies and injustice.

This, I believe, is the truth about resurrection. It’s Jesus’ way – the way of love – even love for the enemy. In John’s Gospel, Jesus says that when we follow his way – love’s way – we will come to know the truth, and the truth will set us free.

May this be a most meaningful Easter for us all!

Faithfully yours,
Barry

-The Rev. Barry Foster is pastor of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, North Carolina.
This article was first published in the April 2017 church newsletter. 

Welcome to Lent

The Lenten Season arrives on March 1st – Ash Wednesday. The word “Lent” comes from the Middle English word for “spring” or the “lengthening of days.” It is a six-week season in the Christian year prior to Easter. (Technically, Lent comprises the 40 days before Easter, not counting the Sundays, or 46 days in total.) In the ancient church, Lent was a time for new converts to be instructed for baptism and for believers caught in sin to focus on repentance. In time, all Christians came to see Lent as a season to be reminded of their need for penitence and to prepare spiritually for the celebration of Easter.

Historically, many Protestants rejected the practice of Lent, pointing out that it was nowhere required in Scripture. But, as time has a way of softening protests and rejections
the Protestant denominations began to re-appropriate some of the more spiritual and meaningful attributes of the Roman Catholic Church – like the liturgical calendar and the seasons of Christ and the Church.

So, welcome to the Lenten season of the church calendar, where a king saddles up a donkey, where best friends deny and the most faithful scatter. This is the time when a murderer is set free so the Holy one of God can be executed. This is the ultimate “darkness before the dawn.”

Lent is a season of ashes and the reminder that life comes from God, a season of solemn worship, reflection, prayer and repentance. Our scriptures take us to the desert, to encounters with the evil that resides in us, and to wrestle with our own temptations and weakness.

We stand with Christ on the outskirts of Jerusalem as he prays out his sorrow for a people he came to champion, but who ultimately claimed no king but Caesar. In the immediate background is the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus would soon pray in anguish for acceptance of his role as sacrificial lamb for a fickle and self-absorbed humanity; where just beyond is the spot where his body would hang.

And, then, the shock of the universe would happen… this Jesus, who began a vision of God’s kingdom of love and grace for all, appeared before his closest friends to let them know his cause is not dead, they can continue, because God will be with them. Jesus did not die in vain…God would not allow it because God loves us! Christ’s church remains to tell this story, to live in Jesus’ new reality.

Six weeks is a long time to prepare for an instant, but this instant makes it all worthwhile. When the sun (Son) rises on Easter morning, the promise Jesus made to the criminal beside him comes true for all of us. In that moment, the ancient prophesies are fulfilled and the world clock is reset to zero (so to speak). May grace and truth accompany you on your Lenten journey to prepare you to fully embrace and proclaim “He is Risen!” on Easter morn.

Faithfully yours,

Barry

-The Rev. Barry Foster is pastor of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, North Carolina.
This article was first published in the March 2017 church newsletter.