Posted & filed under Church, Easter, Replant, Resurrection.

Recently I’ve came across a couple of quotes that have encouraged me:

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” Pope John Paul II

Then a friend, Mark Brown from FBC Jefferson City shared this quote from a sermon by Dr. Harold Bryson: “I think we leave Easter too soon. I just don’t think 24 hours is long enough to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.”

We are Easter people and we should celebrate the resurrection of Jesus every day. The resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of our Christian faith. As Paul writes, “If Christ is not risen from the dead… your faith is useless.” (I Cor 15:14) The resurrection is central to all that we believe, hope and live. We celebrate it; we sing great songs of hope about the resurrection – “Up from the grave He arose…”, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow…”, “Christ the Lord is risen today…” and many more. Easter is celebration of new life and incredible hope.

Sometimes, however, in our celebration we overlook something very important… the resurrection occurred because Jesus died. Without death there is no resurrection. In our celebration of Easter Sunday, we must be careful not skim over what led to the resurrection. Though we call it “Good Friday,” the Friday before Easter may have been the most hopeless day in all of history. Jesus hanging on a cross, being insulted by enemies, abandoned by (almost) all of His friends, family and followers, cries out, “It is finished!” and gives up His life. Certainly His disciples thought it was finished; they had given three years of their lives to following Jesus and in less than a 24 hour period, the Man they had put their trust in was tried, beaten and crucified, and they might be next. What now? They were undoubtedly filled with doubt, fear, confusion and hopelessness. That’s what the death of someone you love will do; it will rock your world and shake you all the way to core of your being… BUT without death, there can be no resurrection. Jesus had even told them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. ” (John 12:24) If it dies, it bears much fruit, and God is glorified when we bear much fruit. (John 15:8)

Over the last year and a half we have been experiencing the death of our church. Numbers have dwindled as members have left; some have moved away, others have moved on because of conflict, strife, disagreement with direction, or loss of confidence in leadership. Finances have tanked and ministries have shrunk. Though there have been signs of hope (salvations and baptisms in the last few weeks), for the most part, the last year and a half has been one long “Good Friday.” For those of us hanging on, it has been hard to experience – death is hard, it is scary and causes doubt, fear and confusion. What now?

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Death may be hard and it may bring doubt, fear, and confusion, but it also brings the hope of resurrection. Without death there is no resurrection. We are Easter people – we believe in a God of the impossible who raises the dead. Our hope is in Him and hallelujah is our song.

In late summer of last year we began a journey of renewal, of moving toward a rebirth. Though we are still struggling with death and loss, we are also seeing signs of life. This coming Sunday will be a pivotal day in the death-to-life journey of our church. We will present a motion to replant our church, to start over, to be “born again” to use a biblical metaphor. Death is hard and painful, and birth is hard and painful too – there are a lot of uncertainties, doubts and questions. Those of you that have given birth know these things. Giving birth is often referred to as “going into labor,” but parents know that the real “labor” starts after the children are born. Things often get harder before they get better. New beginnings are just that – “beginnings;” this is not the end, but the chance for a new beginning; the starting line (or the re-starting line).

There is pain in death, and we’ve been experiencing it for the last year and a half. But there is also hope. Hope in the God of resurrection, the God of rebirth and new beginnings. Please join me in praying, as we approach our vote on Sunday, that the God of Easter resurrection will give us new life and renewed hope and redeem our pain and struggles for His glory.

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” Pope John Paul II


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