(Please note: The article below was written by The Rev. Martin Wright for our April newsletter. Unfortunately, it did not make it to the office in time for publication. It is certainly still most appropriate as we are still in the Easter season for the entire month of May — enjoy!)
Greetings in the name of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ. I was asked to write an Easter article for your newsletter and was happy to do so, but I must confess, I do not immediately know what to write. As I begin this writing, I am sitting in the waiting room of the critical care unit (CCU) at Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg, where my mother-in-law is in the process of being put on a ventilator to aid her recovery from pneumonia. The last several weeks have been a very busy and very difficult time for our family, of which this situation is only the most recent trial. It occurs amid the reflection of Lent and the anticipation of Easter and raises the question of how the essential truths of our faith affect our perceptions and shape our reactions to the troubles that life sometimes drops on us.
I suppose we all know what Easter is, but as with many things in our lives as Christians, I cannot help wondering whether some of these things may have become too familiar, almost cliche. If that observation is true, then do such things have the same force, the same power that they once did for us when the reality of them was startling, perhaps even shocking to us. Easter is our greatest celebration, made so by the completely startling, utterly shocking event it commemorates. Do we really believe that a man Jesus of Nazareth was executed by the Romans and buried only to return to life and escape from the tomb in which he was sealed? So what if we do?
When I was a child, I attended the Baptist church my parents belonged to. When I was nine, I responded to the gospel message and gave my life to Christ. Now I could live without fear of what would happen if I died. Unfortunately, over the next dozen or so years, my faith did not grow or mature very much. I believed in Jesus as my savior and would tell you so if you asked, but it was a truth that did not affect my life very much. It was not until I began attending church again after getting married and went to a retreat that I had a new and profound experience of God. On that weekend I experienced the reality of God’s presence as I never before had. I realized that it was inconsistent for me to claim to be a Christian while living a life that gave no indication of His presence in my life. I knew that something had to change.
Things did change. I changed. My life took on a new focus. No longer was Jesus a fringe issue, my “ace in the hole,” but He was now the centrai organizing principle of my life. That was over twenty years ago and I now know how easy it is to lose the startling impact of those early days. Perhaps you have realized it too. Maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the greatest event of human history and see it in all its original, startling, even shocking impact. What was it like for those first disciples when they discovered that the tomb was empty and Jesus was alive? Could they believe it, and if they did, how would it affect the rest of their lives? It certainly did affect them. It completely transformed and reoriented their lives. From their ministry arose a community that began to change the world. And even you have not escaped the influence of this one pivotal event.
If you consider yourself a follower of Jesus Christ, then you likely know how your life has changed because of this fact, Yet it could be that you are like I was, holding on to the basic truth, but not embracing it fully. Maybe you’ve kept this transforming power at arm’s length, not really sure you’re ready for the change it might bring. Like me, perhaps you’re just “playing church” every week. No longer. Now is the time for change. I pray you recapture or even capture for the first time the startling even shocking truth that God himself became like us and died in our place, only to rise again. Death could not hold him and his life will not let you go. Let it transform you, renew you. Nothing in all of human experience has changed the world the way the resurrection of Jesus Christ has. And nothing can change you as much as this one, simple yet profound truth: that God loved you enough to die in your place, that you might live with him forever. May God truly bless you this Easter season with his wondrous, transforming power.
The Rev. Martin Wright