In his Easter Message, United Church of Christ General Minister and President the Rev. John C. Dorhauer invites all in the wider church to celebrate the hope of Easter.
We are an Easter people.
Shaped by the experiences of death, the wells of our enduring faith spring up and speak to us of the eternal.
This fundament, this bedrock, it grounds us.
And, as Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians – we therefore do not grieve as those who have no hope.
I can’t tell you how many times over the last year and a half I have had to remind myself that we are, in the end, an Easter people.
No death we experience will be allowed to offer the last word.
Hope will always abide in the shadows that come with grief and loss.
Let us, then, speak of grief and loss – the collective ennui we share with a suffering planet that is smeared with our toil.
We see tens of millions of refugees swarming the globe. We see decades of advances in social justice being erased by a global shift to the political fringes. We watch nations and their leaders play war games with big and very destructive weapons. We know children are being trafficked, women are being violated, and black and brown bodies are continuously treated with disdain by whites.
My mood has shifted and I am not alone. Say what you want about the current political climate in America, but something has happened to our shared narrative.
Immigrants are enemies.
Unarmed black bodies are gunned down with impunity.
Women’s bodies are trivialized as solely the object of men’s passions and desires.
Fascism is on the rise, creeping into the light after decades lurking in the shadows.
Children go through ‘code red’ exercises that have them rehearsing live shooter drills, wondering not if, but when.
We talk without shame about arming teachers.
I’m looking for my Easter hope.
I’m asking if this is the dying beyond which God has nothing more to say.
God is not silent.
God’s speech resonates not from beyond the madness, but from within it.
On a street corner in St. Louis, a woman preaches at the opening of a child wellbeing center. The preacher has an Easter story to tell. She was left abandoned on that very street corner when she was 9 months old.
In a sanctuary in Madbury, New Hampshire the Maranatha Indonesian United Church of Christ celebrates 14 years of shared life and ministry. They have their own Easter story to tell. Many in the room just weeks ago were detained and threatened with deportation. One pastor’s intervention and dogged determination affected their release. On this Sunday, much more than an anniversary is celebrated as families are re-united.
In the aftermath of one of the most violent and ugly chapters of our collective narrative, teenagers produce their own Easter hope by calling a nation to recognize that our love affair with gun violence is destroying the hope of children. Their fierce resistance has an entire nation marching for our lives.
The tomb is empty.
Oh, to be sure, death has its sting.
There was a body. But the body rises.
God speaks, and beyond the seemingly impenetrable tomb a new word is heard.
Let those who have ears to hear, hear.
May the joy of an embodied resurrection call you to see through grief, listen beyond lamentation, and know beyond a shadow of doubt, Jesus lives.
We do not grieve as those who have no hope. Our grief is altered by Easter.
Jesus is risen.
He is risen indeed.