Category Archives: Easter

All Shall Be Well

Juliana of Norwich was a 14th century anchorite and spiritual writer and the first female author published in English. She was not formally a nun, but lived most of her life in a small room, receiving daily food through a window and dedicating herself to prayer. Her best-known book is Revelations of Divine Love. Her infatuation with God and desire for others to know divine love and grace influenced thousands in her day and millions of readers over the past centuries. She shared her hope and love in a world full of plagues and wars (that make COVID-19 seem tame), ecclesial disputes, and social unrest. Why was she so happy?

Juliana experienced deep intimacy with Christ, both as the Crucified Savior and Risen Lord. She knew the entire biblical narrative and the final chapters of the Book of Revelation spoke to her as she reminded her suffering friends, “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” The hope of the resurrection and the beautiful visions of eternity detailed in Scripture informed her optimism in the midst of so much degradation and tragedy.

We need Mother Juliana’s hope in our world. Easter reminds us that death does not have the final word and our current afflictions are working new affections of compassion and endurance in our souls. Injustice and underserved pain, the selfishness of the powerful, and our own self-inflicted wounds all conspire toward fatalism and hopelessness. But Easter has come and our mourning turns to joy as our tears are dried by the nail-scarred hands of Christ!

It was the Holy Spirit that gave Juliana of Norwich her revelations of divine love and hope. The same Holy Spirit lives in every believer and in the church opening our hearts and minds toward courage and wisdom, and loving service. The same Holy Spirit will empower the sharing of the Gospel as we invite others to experience forgiveness, healing, and foretastes of eternal delight.

While we contend for truth, work for justice, and engage in all domains of our culture, we will have defeats and victories, tragic reversals and miraculous advances. In the midst of it all, our Risen Lord reminds us, “All shall be well.”

Our Stories Are Not Finished Yet

The Lenten Season is a period of self-reflection and sacrifice as followers of Christ ponder the obedience of Jesus that led to a Cross and Resurrection, bringing hope and reconciling grace to our weary world. The story of Jesus includes his humble beginnings. It features family life in an artisan’s home. There is a Bar Mitzvah that astounded some learned religious leaders. And then there were quiet years running a business until his early 30s. If the narrative stopped here, it would have been one more story of an anonymous Jewish family in the early first century.

But the full story continues as Jesus begins his public ministry. For more than three years this Rabbi delivers and heals, forgives and reconciles, teaches and demonstrates the love, grace, and truth of God’s kingdom. For his trouble, Jesus is betrayed, arrested, subject to multiple (mis)trials, scourged, crucified, and buried in a borrowed tomb with a 24-hour Roman guard. If the story had ended here, Jesus would have been one more zealous Rabbi and wonder-worker and perhaps classified as a good teacher by some and a pernicious influence by others. (Oh wait…isn’t that how many still see him?)

But the story is only complete on Easter morning as the Lord is raised from the dead in a transformed body still bearing the scars of his atoning death while revealing the ultimate future of all who believe. Easter is not only a promise of eternity, it is a present reality as followers of Jesus receive the Holy Spirit and walk in his pathway of love and humility, offering the same deliverance and healing, forgiveness and reconciliation to all.

And Easter means that all of OUR stories are still being written. Starting right now, our future can be different as we listen more deeply to our Lord, align our hearts and minds with his commands, and join Jesus in his mission. Yes, we may bear the consequences and scars of previous traumas or our own sins. No, we cannot be “anything” we imagine – that is nonsense. But starting today, we can become the best version of the person God created us to be and start doing the good works he designed in advance for us to do. We were created to enjoy God’s presence and fulfill his purpose. As we worship and work, and allow the Lord to refine our character and define our charisms, a better future opens to us – and to the world.

Our stories are not finished until our mortal journeys have ended. And even then, they continue in a new creation. Be encouraged today! Jettison the fatalism and the fantasies, and embrace the Cross. In humility and service, we discover our purpose and find great strength.

History is Made and the World Changes Forever

Easter. Bunnies and chocolate, egg hunts and beautiful dresses.
Easter. A time of renewal as spring is fully here.
Easter. Family feasting.

Easter includes all of these cultural expressions, some rooted in ancient spring rituals that antedate Christianity. The word itself originates with fertility deities celebrating new life. Other practices are the creations of brilliant marketeers.

For billions throughout history and around the world, however, Easter is about the most important event in human history: the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. His crucifixion on Good Friday is a mere martyrdom without this divine affirmation of triumph over death. In First Corinthians, chapter 15, the Apostle Paul, himself a former persecutor of the church, declares that without the resurrection of Jesus, the entirety of the Christian faith is in vain and founded on a lie. Without the resurrection, there is no hope in our future or present as we confront evil and suffering – we might as well, “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” (a famous Epicurean saying rooted in the denial of life after death).

Amidst all the chocolate and flowers, billions of Christians will declare, “He is Risen!” and respond with, “He is Risen, indeed!” this confession is at the core of the faith and ultimately, this belief is what splits history into BCE and CE or BC and AD…before Christ and “in the year of our Lord” (or “before the common era and the common era).

The resurrection declares that Jesus’ death is full of meaning: the forgiveness and sins and bearing of sicknesses, sorrows and undeserved suffering. Justice and love meet perfectly as the Incarnate One bears the penalty and shame for all human sin. But death does not win! The resurrection is also the preview of our human future as we see our destiny when the world is fully restored. Such hope, empowered by the Holy Spirit, inspires our acts of love and justice today. 

Please enjoy Easter in all its expressions…and remember that the essence of Easter is hope in Christ and an invitation to new life that is not mere pagan celebration, but spiritual transformation.

From Noon to Three

Today is Good Friday on the Western Christian calendar. Our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters will celebrate the same in a few days.

After the show trials before religious and secular authorities, the beatings by soldiers who will gamble for his garment and the ravings of a rent-a-crowd, Jesus of Nazareth in crucified between two criminals on a small hill outside the walls of Jerusalem.

Even in his death his detractors dare him to perform miracles to save himself while his followers either scatter in fear or watch in incredulity and sorrow as he experiences unspeakable agony.

While suffering, Jesus asks his Father to forgive the perpetrators of this heinous crime and finds time to offer absolution to a repentant thief.

From noon to three, a veil of darkness shrouds the scene as the One called the King of the Jews endures unutterable agony and alienation, the bearing the pain and penalty, alienation from God and humankind, and, in the end, a peace as he declares, “It is finished!”

What just happened?

According to the earliest Christian confessions in both the New Testament and first-centur literature, Jesus died for the sins of the world, bearing the judgment of God for humankind’s rebellion. Jesus is both the sinless representative and atoning substitute of guilty humanity. In his death is satisfaction of divine justice and the expression of unconditional love. His death bears all the deserved and undeserved suffering of humankind, from Adam to the Apocalypse. In his cry of, “Why?” are all the unanswered questions of our circumstances. And in his words of comfort to the humble thief are the seeds of hope as we already glimpse that death itself is defeated in the death of Jesus. And when Jesus declares, “it is finished” and “into you hands I commit my spirit” we see the triumph of hope over despair, mercy over wrath and love over all.

From noon to three the world is reconciled, an amnesty offered a race of rebels as uncompromising holiness and unconditional love embrace on a wooden stake. These hours do not explain evil – the Cross defeats its. These hours do not remove us from challenges – they offer strength to endure, knowing that Easter Sunday is coming.

This is the Good News of Good Friday, the cruciform heart of the Christian faith. All the “red letters” – the words and works of Jesus of Nazareth – are proclaimed and performed with this moment in mind. From Advent to Trinity, from a babe in the creche to a man on a Cross, all of the divine search for lost humankind culminates in this moment of passionate embrace.

May we receive this love once again…and share it across the street and around the world with boldness, humility and wisdom.

The Day(s) After Easter

Easter is the most important day in the Christian calendar. The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and the subsequent missionary efforts of his followers continue to impact the world. A small band of Jewish believers becomes a global, multicultural faith touching billions. Frightened disciples become fearless martyrs and proclaim forgiveness, reconciliation and hope. The agony of Good Friday is now seen as atonement for sin. The despair of death has been overcome by a preview of the future as believers see in the Risen Lord their eternal destiny.

Christianity is more than a personal faith or religious tradition. The Judeo-Christian worldview reflected in the Bible is the foundation for liberty, prosperity and stability. Even people of other faiths or no faith at all are the beneficiaries of the values and vision inspired by the call of Abraham, the legislation of Moses, the leadership of David, the courage of the prophets, the example of Jesus and the insights of the Apostles.

It is vital to assert that people of all worldviews bring much good to the world. Christianity does not have an exclusive claim on universal values such as love, compassion and justice. In fact, a biblical understanding of humankind affirms that all women and men are made in God’s image. Though we are effaced by sin, God’s image is not erased. In the providence of the Almighty, every person can bring good to the world.

The Judeo-Christian ethos has, however, led the planet in fostering particular values that all thoughtful people embrace. Here are just a few of the ideals that are part of the heart of our civilization:
* The dignity of all people, regardless of gender, race or status. This was new in an Empire that devalued the lowly and practiced infanticide.
* Compassion for the broken, poor and vulnerable. Medical care, hospitality, food for the hungry and advocacy for daily bread are the legacies of belief in a loving Creator and Redeemer.
* Free markets, natural prices, private property, community welfare and the entrepreneurial spirit are the overflow of biblical principles.
* Universal human rights rooted in the dignity of all people, the rule of law and transcendent moral principles.

Many more ideals can be enumerated. Consider the social progress of the last millennium, including emancipation movements, suffrage campaigns and private and public welfare provisions. Prison reforms, fair labor laws and equal opportunity under the law are consequences of reverence for God and respect for all people. Leaders across cultures and epochs share the convictions that produced the courage to change the world, from William Wilberforce to Martin Luther King, from St. Francis to Mother Teresa.

Art and music that refresh our lives flow from faith. Bach’s majestic orchestrations and Marc Chagall’s unparalleled images inspire creativity and nobility. Mozart’s masses and the literary genius of C.S. Lewis refract Divine luminosity. Makato Fujimura’s illuminated Gospels and inspired paintings grace 21st century venues around the world. The heartfelt and insightful lyrics of singer Sara Groves inspire millions to believe and continue their journey toward love and truth.

Easter is the day of hope. The days after Easter continue to make our lives rich with meaning. It is interesting that agnostics and atheists thrive in lands deeply affected by biblical values. Liberty of conscience, our most precious natural right, is the direct consequence of Judeo-Christian precepts that call for voluntary belief and mutual love and respect. We have a noble history and great hope if we will renew our fidelity to enduring ideals.