Easter is only a few weeks away. It is one of the busiest times in the Church Year, but for me also one of the most meaningful because the death and resurrection of Jesus is central to our faith as Christians. At Christmas we celebrate that God became man when Jesus was born in a stable, and as wonderful as his birth was it was only the beginning. Jesus’ ministry was only the last three years of his life, in his case about 10% of his life, but it is the primary focus of our Gospels culminating in his arrest, death and resurrection, with a few brief stories from the days immediately after his resurrection until his ascension 40 days later. During the three years of public ministry Jesus taught about God, about God’s love for us, he invited people from every walk of life to become part of his kingdom, teaching what that might mean for how we live.
His death was the ultimate sign of God’s love, through which we are offered forgiveness, and his resurrection three days later is a sign of God’s promise and hope for us to live in relationship with God fully reconciled. The days surrounding his death and resurrection are so meaningful that we slow down and reflect on them from different angles during Holy Week. You will find in this newsletter, as well as the Easter letter, a detailed list of the services. I would invite you plan to attend as many of those services as possible, immersing yourself in events. As well, I want to challenge every person to invite someone else (preferably who does not attend another church) to at least one service. The most obvious is Good Friday and Easter Sunday as the remembrance of Jesus’ death and the celebration of his resurrection. My favourite service is actually the Vigil on Saturday evening when we hear a series of Old Testament readings that set Jesus’ resurrection in the context of God’s ongoing redemption of humanity, before we re-affirm our baptismal promises and celebrate communion together.
One of the challenges I think we face with Easter is the inevitable, “what now?” Having remembered and celebrated, where do we go and what do we do next? It was a challenge the disciples faced as well. Jesus was raised from the dead, and it was exciting but it was also challenging because life could not go back to the way it was before, but they really didn’t know what would come next or what they were to do next. We are not much different from the Early Church, asking so what’s next, how are we to respond to this amazing event, where are we to go and what are we to do? If Lent is about preparing for Easter, how does it prepare us for what comes after Easter?
Reflecting on Jesus’ ministry, I am struck by the way that encounters with Jesus are transformational, as people from every walk of life are changed through these encounters. In John’s gospel we have everyone from Nicodemus a leader of the Jews who comes by night and who Jesus challenges, to a Samaritan woman and man born blind, both outsiders for different reasons whom Jesus invites into relationship. In each case when they encounter Jesus their lives are changed in exciting ways. Their lives were never the same, they were changed for the better and they in turn made an impact on others, that’s why we remember them. Throughout Jesus’ ministry he constantly challenged people to move outside of their comfort zone, whether it was leaving known and comfortable lives to follow him (i.e., disciples, Zacchaeus), or feeding thousands with a few fish and loaves (Luke 9:13), or to go ahead of him proclaiming the kingdom of God has come near (i.e., Luke 10:1-11).
As we celebrate Easter this year, celebrating how Jesus comes to set us free and give us new life, may we also ask ourselves, so what’s next? The disciples, like those who encountered Jesus in his ministry, were changed by their encounters with the risen Lord. We who too are called to be changed, to be transformed by our experience and by our encounter with the risen Lord. Jesus practiced a pattern with the disciples of learning and sending, of going and returning to reflect on their experience, of being disciples and making disciples. He calls us into the same pattern. So as we come to the end our Lenten journey and the empty tomb, where is Jesus sending you?Where is he sending us as a faith community?Out into the world as his disciples, to serve others, to share God’s love and grace?
May the coming Holy Week and Easter season be life-transforming for you, and may you go forth to love and serve the Lord, loving and serving others in His name.