Pastor’s Ponderings

From Kathy…

What is your defining story? What is the narrative that shapes the way you view the world and your place in it? Easter is the climax of the defining story of the Christian Faith. For us as followers of the Way of Jesus, the resurrection is the event that shapes how we see the world.

On Thursday of his final week, Jesus was betrayed by one of his friends, arrested by the religious authorities and found guilty of blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God and the Jewish Messiah. On Friday he was sentenced to death by the Roman Governor and crucified between two criminals, enduring hours of horrible pain and suffering before finally breathing his last. He was taken down from the cross, hastily prepared for burial, and placed in a borrowed tomb, which then had a large stone rolled in front of it. As far as anyone could see, that was that. It was over. The disciples who had been with Jesus for three years were in hiding for fear they would be arrested and crucified themselves. It is clear that if our defining story had ended with Jesus’ burial– today there might not be a Christian faith.

But early on Sunday morning the women who followed Jesus, went to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away. What had happened? What did it mean? Their first thought was that someone had stolen Jesus’ body. Our tradition tells us the women arrived and found the empty tomb, Jesus appeared to them and said “Look, I am here, it’s me, touch me, tell my disciples I am alive.” Later that day our tradition tells us that he appeared to the disciples and that appearance changed everything. The message was clear; neither sin nor hate nor evil nor even death would have the final word. God, in raising Jesus from the dead, was shouting to the human race; love has conquered hate; grace has conquered sin; Hope has conquered despair and life has conquered death. Love, grace, hope, life—these have the final word because of Christ’s resurrection.

Before we go too much further in defining resurrection let me just say this. The resurrection is more important than whether Jesus was physically raised from the dead. What the Resurrection means is that the Spirit of Christ blossoms wherever we go, that we are agents to prepare the ground for God’s work of resurrection. That is our defining story.

Sometimes I hear people describe California as post-Christian. There are churches everywhere—Christianity is still part of the culture; yet few people attend them.  However, I think our defining story as followers of the Way of Jesus is powerful enough to affect people deeply. I still remember when I went to see the final Harry Potter Movie, Deathly Hallows part 2 in the theatre that those watching the movie were deeply moved by what I would call a modern resurrection story. I had always said the Harry Potter story was deeply reflective of the Christian story so it was great to be vindicated by the final book! A young man lays down his life to save his friends. He appears to be dead. All seems lost. And then he opens his eyes, defeats his arch enemy and restores hope.

 

As Harry went forward to give up his life for his friends, I could hear people crying as I was. When Harry rose they cheered as I did. And when he finally defeated Voldemort, his arch enemy, they broke out in joyful applause to which I added my own. I don’t think the audience was cheering just for the fictional Harry Potter. They were cheering for the idea that life conquers death that good conquers evil, that evil will never have the final word. That idea was best demonstrated not in a movie, but in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. Jesus gave himself to save the world, so that death and evil would not triumph.

As followers in the Way of Jesus, You and I are invited to place our trust in the ultimate power of God’s love. It is a love – as shown by Jesus on the cross- that suffers with us. And it is a love- as shown by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead- that is more powerful than all the forces of darkness. “Nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God” as shown to us in Jesus Christ. This is not a past event only, but a present reality. Not “thanks for the memories” but “thanks be to God who walks with us.”

When we follow in the Way of the resurrected Christ we walk with hope. Peter and the disciples counted on it? What are you counting on? What is your defining story?

As always I happy to talk with you about what I have written or anything else.

Blessings,

Pastor Kathy

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