Tag Archive for: Resurrection

Engaging in any mission is challenging. Engaging in God’s mission is even more challenging. The challenge is not the mission, but how you engage in the mission. So, here it is. Mission is not an activity you do to or for others, it is a way of living with and relating to others. It is more about following Jesus than it is about who and where you are going to serve. 

The Mission of God’s Love

Your life changes when you engage in mission. Whether it is your life or the life of your church, engaging in mission means constantly challenging personal preferences, the fear of losing control of who to serve, and the anxiety of not having enough resources. Yet, engaging in mission means learning to relax in the experience of loving others as you have been loved. It is an experience of transformation and new life.

So, what better time to explore engaging the mission than the season of the resurrection? When I reflect upon the resurrection, I continually discover that the attention of the early church was focused on the mission of God’s love. Even though there were those who did not want Jesus around, God raised him up and put him back to preaching, teaching, healing and loving. His followers understood themselves to be the evidence of God’s power of resurrection and God’s love still alive in Jesus.    

On the morning of the Resurrection, God gave a transforming presence for engaging in mission. 

Engaging in mission reshapes your life to live the way Jesus lived and to think and act the way Jesus thought and acted. Engaging in mission is to change your way of living and loving. It means to live all of life in the presence, love, and power of Jesus.

For one example of engaging in mission, read John 21:1-17

Read John 21:1-17 

21 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin,[a] Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So, they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he had taken it off, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. 

9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them, and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. 

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 

Reflect: Engaging in Mission

In the story above, when Jesus says, “Feed my lambs” or “Tend my sheep,” he is sending his followers out on God’s mission of love. Just as Matthew had “The Great Commission,” John has a commission. “Feed my sheep” is John’s commission story of engaging in mission. 

He uses Simon Peter, who is known as the leader of those early followers, to tell his story. Simon Peter received the Holy Spirit and was commissioned for God’s mission directly from Jesus (John 20:19-23). So, John uses Simon Peter to model what it means to follow Jesus. 

After the resurrection, Simon Peter decides to go fishing. While fishing all night and not catching any fish, Jesus shows up and life changes. It is after Jesus has had a meal with them that Jesus asks Simon Peter, “Simon, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter responds, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus sends him out to love others as he has been loved.  

To Live with Jesus 

Here is where living with Jesus and engaging the mission comes in.  I know it feels arbitrary, but to live with Jesus is to feed his lambs. To feed his lambs is to live with his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, prisoner sisters and brothers as well. 

Just to be clear, Simon Peter was doing what he knew to do, yet Jesus engaged him in the mission of feeding his lambs.  As good as it is, there is more to loving Jesus than doing what you know to do. There is more to loving Jesus than discussing the scripture and deciding who needs care. It is more than raising questions for missional discussions, entertaining differing points of view, and being tolerant and open. 

Each of these things are extremely important, but loving Jesus is more than being friends with him or knowing about him. Engaging in mission is to live with Jesus in such a way that you are transformed by your relationship with him.  

What is Engaging in Mission About?

Engaging in mission is not about how you feel about Jesus or God’s mission. It is not about your opinion, your point of view, or your thoughts about particular scriptures. It is not about how much or how little education you have or what position you hold. It is about loving people as you have been loved. 

Engaging in mission is about living with Jesus and loving the people he loves. In fact, he says, “I want you to keep doing what I was doing. As the Father sent me so I send you.” In other words, “feed my lambs” means feeding people, caring for those who were pushed aside, healing those who were broken, restoring relationships for those who have become marginalized, serving in humility, and even dying on a cross. 

You engage in mission, not because it is a good thing to do, but because God’s love for you and your love for God is expressed in real acts of love for others. Regardless of who they are or what they have done, you love because God first loved you. 

Engaging in mission means living with Jesus so that when you hear him say, “As the Father sent me so I send you,” you go. 

Respond with Love

You have been commissioned to love others as you love Jesus. How will you engage in God’s mission today? Be aware of the people God sends your way. Be mindful of the opportunities you have to respond with love. How will you practice who you are as a follower of Jesus?  In what new way will you love others as Christ has loved you? 

Engaging in mission transforms you. Be aware of what helps turn your love for Jesus into an outward expression of love and care. 

Prayer

O God, make me aware of the people around me today. By your grace, help me be an extension of your love in the lives of the people you send my way. Help me yield a little more of myself so that I may love others as you have loved me. Help me be faithful to your call upon my life so that I may be a blessing to someone, somewhere, today. Amen 

Return

As you reflect back upon your day, give thanks for God’s call to follow Jesus. In what ways did you engage in God’s mission of love? When were your preferences challenged? When were you anxious about expressing your love? When were you aware that you were being sent to love others as God in Jesus loves you? When did you relax in loving others? What will you do differently tomorrow?

You have just celebrated Easter, a time of hope and promise, yet there is a lingering feeling of despair. You hear and read about the news reports that suggest the new day you have just announced has not yet dawned. You are surrounded with people with different points of view on just about everything and you wonder if there is anyone who really cares about the truth of God’s love and the power of new life. 

Even with the hope of the resurrection and your faith rooted in God through Jesus, you know that lump-in-the-throat, knot-in-the-stomach feeling of anxiety. At your best, there are times you feel everyone wants something from you. And at your worst, even an act of kindness seems like a veiled attempt to manipulate you. How do you keep yourself healthy? How do you live with and lead through despair? 

Addressing Despair

Despair is not a word we associate with leadership. But you and I both know, all too well, that as a leader you face despair every day in some form. Ari Weinzweig, in his book Dealing With Despair in Day-to-Day Leadership, writes, “Despair comes quietly in our heads, hearts, and bodies, but if we don’t handle it well, it can have negative impacts…”  In other words, if you don’t name, face, and deal with your own despair, you will not be able to care for and lead others in and through despair. 

Everyone has dealt with despair at some time in their lives. It can be caused by deep loss, seemingly impossible financial circumstances, paths forward blocked by systemic unfairness or the unexpected departure of a partner. Sometimes it’s a combination of all of the above. When it hits, even with all the advantages you have going for you, despair is hard to handle. 

So, let’s take a look at one of the resurrection stories to name, face, and deal with despair so you can and will lead with courage and effectiveness. 

Again, let’s use the pattern of read, reflect, respond, and return as a way of examining this story of Mary visiting the tomb of Jesus.   

Read John 20:1-18

Focus on John 20: 11-18 in italics below

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So, she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’s head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed, for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. 

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb, and she saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not touch me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and she told them that he had said these things to her. 

Reflect

Mary stands weeping at the tomb. The body she was expecting to find is gone. But there are two angels there. Angels are messengers of life and good news. They ask Mary about her tears. In her hopelessness and despair she answers, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 

Then she mistakes Jesus for the gardener. As we have seen in past studies of John’s gospel, John writes on two levels. On one level Mary’s lack of perception might have been that she was overcome by grief or blinded by tears. But on another level, she was facing the wrong direction. She couldn’t take her eyes off the tomb. In her grief and despair, she literally had her back to Jesus. So, she experiences him as a stranger. 

Whom are you seeking?

Jesus asks, “Whom are you seeking?” He does not ask “What are you seeking” but “Whom are you seeking?” Mary, assuming that this stranger might have been involved in moving Jesus’ body, asks if she might have the body to care for it. She loved Jesus. This is her way of showing her love, even after he is gone. She is still acting in grief and despair. 

It is then that Jesus, the risen Christ, speaks her name, “Mary.” It is the shepherd calling one of his sheep, and Mary recognizes the voice of her shepherd. It is at this point that she turns to him. She changes direction. She turns from focused on despair to focusing on hope. And in adoration and wonder, she falls at his feet and utters, “Rabboni.” 

Holding On

She attempts to hold on to him, which for John is an association with holding onto the past. Without recognizing it or naming it, she wants things to go back to normal, the way they were before the crucifixion. But Jesus insists that she cannot continue to hold on to him in that way. 

Mary is the first to see Jesus. She is now a messenger of his resurrection and ascension. Rather than allowing her to cling to him, Jesus sends her on a mission to tell the others what she has seen and heard. 

Like Mary, we are sent forth to announce that the body is not in the tomb. We can face our despair and turn toward hope. The hope found in God’s love we see and experience in Jesus. God’s love has not come to end. 

Name the Despair

So, what can we learn from this story? First, Mary names her despair. It is real. “They have taken away my Lord, and I now know where they have laid him.” 

David Whyte writes: “Despair takes us in when we have nowhere else to go; when we feel the heart cannot break anymore, when our world or our loved ones disappear, when we feel we cannot be loved or do not deserve to be loved, when our God disappoints, or when our body is carrying profound pain in a way that does not seem to go away. We give up hope when certain particular wishes are no longer able to come true and despair is the time in which we both endure and heal, even when we have not yet found the new form of hope.” 

What we know is that denial, pretending to yourself and to others that you don’t feel despair makes your situation worse and your life miserable. Brené Brown reminds us, “Without understanding how our feelings, thoughts and behaviors work together, it’s almost impossible to find our way back to ourselves and each other.” So, Mary names her despair. 

Mary Faces Her Despair

Second, Mary faces her despair. “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’ Supposing he was the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).” 

Facing despair requires trust. Trust is fundamental to relationships. It requires vulnerability as well as authenticity and integrity. Look at Peter’s vision in Acts 10. To trust means you have to let go of your suspicious feelings and imagine that people around you have your best interest at heart. I know that is not always the reality, but without trust you will never face your despair. 

I also know that it is not easy to trust when your trust has been violated.  But distrust leads to isolation. So, take the risk and start trusting. By modeling trust with the people you are leading, you will actually build a movement of trust. People who encounter a trusting leader want to be trustworthy. Mary trusted the gardener. 

Mary Offers Hope

And third, Mary offers hope. “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and she told them that he had said these things to her.” Despair comes when hope goes dark. But when you decide to turn from the darkness and step into the light, despair begins to grow into hope. 

Although it’s difficult to remember when you are in the middle of it, despair when acknowledged and faced, can lead to positive and creative outcomes. Psychologist Mary Pipher says: “What despair often does is crack open your heart. When your heart cracks open, it begins to feel joy again. You wake up. You start feeling pain first. You feel the pain first, but then you feel the joy.” 

Trust Your Relationships

After you have acknowledged your despair and faced it, then trust the relationships you have developed. Mary went back to her community, the disciples, to tell them what she had experienced. 

Community emerges from those with whom you associate. It is built upon the relationships you develop at home, work, or play. Wherever it does, it is critical to find hope in the midst of despair. Just as isolation is a breeding ground for despair, healthy relationships are the protection against despair. When you have people close to you, you have a connection to something more important than yourself. You can be yourself as well as share yourself. It is in giving to and sharing with others that you will find the greatest joy. 

Mary’s despair was transformed when she began to share her hope with those closest to her. 

Respond

It is not easy to acknowledge and face your despair. But there is evidence that understanding hope and making it a daily practice makes a difference in overcoming despair. If you practice hope in good times, you are more able to see possible solutions and new ideas in challenging times. There are several ways to practice hope in leadership. 

Look for Hope

Focus on the positive and not the negative. Just as Mary in the story, when she focused on the tomb and what she did not have, she had her back to Jesus, the one whom she was seeking.  Practice looking for Jesus in everyday situations and relationships. You will experience him in unexpected places at unexpected times.

Make Hope Happen

Become familiar with the Hope Cycle and promote hope and a hopeful view.

  • Know your context. Where you are.
  • Know your goal. Where you are going.
  • Navigate the barriers. The path to get you to where you are going.
  • Claim the agency to move forward. Know what you can do. And ask for help along the way. 

Be Grateful. 

Pay attention to the positives when the problems feel overwhelming. Sam Keen writes, “Make a ritual of pausing to appreciate and be thankful. The more you become a connoisseur of gratitude, the less you are the victim of resentment, depression, and despair. Gratitude will gradually dissolve the hard shell of your need to possess and control and transform you into a generous being. The sense of gratitude produces true spiritual transformation. And for no particular reason, despair is replaced with an undefinable sense of hope, and enthusiasm returns.” 

Return

Give God thanks for the people you met today. Regardless of how small, what hope did you experience?

  • How did you offer hope to others? 
  • Who is helping you name, face, and transform despair?
  • Ask God to give you the power to love others as God has loved you. What will you do differently tomorrow as a leader? 
  • Ask God to give you the power to turn despair into hope.

How was your Easter celebration? Although you have been back to “in person” worship for several months, celebrating Easter in person for the first time in two years must have felt extraordinary. I know it sounds silly, but you must have felt good getting back to some form of normal. 

The desire to get back to normal has been part of our thinking for months. The pandemic not only interrupted worship and church activities, but it also interrupted all of life as we were living it. So, I’m sure it felt good to celebrate Easter for several reasons, not the least of all the feeling of normalcy. 

Unexpected Interruptions

Unexpected interruptions have been part of human life from the very beginning. You can think of all the natural disasters, wars, deaths, births, and accidents that created a new normal for you. And when you look at the scripture, whether it was talking to a serpent in the garden, discovering a ram in the thicket, noticing a baby in a basket floating in the river, finding manna in the morning, getting water from a rock, human life has been interrupted with events that changed what was considered normal. 

Follow Me

Consider the lives of the first followers of Jesus. Fishing all night without catching anything was normal. Not fun or productive, but normal. Jesus comes along and tells them to do something that was not normal, “Cast your nets on the other side of the boat.” 

They were fishermen. They knew it was too late in the morning to catch any fish. Yet, they dropped their nets in the water and they caught more fish than they could handle. They had to call for help. Jesus came along and interrupted their lives. He said, “Follow me and I will teach you to catch people.” For the next three years, interacting with people became their new normal. 

Interrupted by the Resurrection

They gave themselves to the teaching and ministry of their new leader. Their new normal was living with Jesus. Although he was a little unorthodox in his dealing with people, life was good because it had become normal again. Then their lives were interrupted, not by a pandemic but by the resurrection. 

Although Jesus was arrested, convicted, and put to death by crucifixion, it was the resurrection that interrupted their lives. John tells us that Simon Peter and six other disciples wanted to get back to normal. After their experience of the resurrection, they went fishing. As far as their experience, life with Jesus was over. It was good while it lasted, but it was over. So, they were longing for life to get back to normal. Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” 

Do You Love Me?

It was while he and the others were going back to what they considered to be normal that Jesus appeared to them. Jesus serves them breakfast. It was in the normal experience of eating that Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, do you love me?” In the normal experience of eating a meal, like a stranger on the road to Emmaus, or the dinner parties Jesus attended, Jesus shows up and asks, “Simon, do you love me?” 

Even though Simon Peter responds with, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you,” Jesus asks repeatedly because the desire to go back to what we consider normal blinds us to the new normal. So, with Peter’s confession, Jesus then gives him the words of the new normal, “Feed my lambs.” “Care for my sheep.” 

Resurrection Gives You a New Normal

Simon Peter wants to get back to normal. But Jesus shows up as his new normal. This is a wonderful, frightening thing. Jesus, the risen Christ, is on the loose and is at work, where you live, with the people whom you lead. Notice that Sunday is the first day of the Jewish work week. It is interesting that Jesus wasn’t raised on a Saturday, a holy day, but was raised on the day when everything was going back to normal. Everyone was going back to work. 

The resurrection interrupts our normal and says that you demonstrate your faith in the places you live, work, and play. That is because the resurrection puts today and every day into a new perspective. Every day is sanctified and all of creation, even your community, is the Holy Land. Every person is sanctified and every person you meet is one of God’s children in whom you can see Jesus. You might long to go back to normal, but as a follower of Jesus, the resurrection gives you a new normal. 

Resurrection Interruptions

We are the people whose lives have been interrupted by the resurrection. We have had something happen to us that the world is yet to experience. The risen Christ has come back to us. In one way or another, you are here because Jesus, the risen Christ, has sought you, met you, caught you, and commissioned you for God’s purposes at this point and time in history. 

When you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, look up. You are not walking alone. When you come to some dead end in life and you look over the edge into the dark abyss, look up. He is there waiting for you as a light in the darkness. When you listen to the news, skim social media, read reports on the internet, and you feel overwhelmed, remember that Jesus confronts the powers and principalities of the day. He comes in the midst of the normal, no matter how bleak the normal might seem, and when you want to give up in despair, don’t be surprised to find him nearby. 

As you lead, you will find yourself stepping into unexpected interruptions. As a Jesus follower, living in a new normal, you might consider summarizing your leadership in light of the gospel. In an overall sense, in the Bible, it gets dark. Then it gets very, very dark. Then Jesus shows up. But Jesus doesn’t just show up; he shows up for you and for the people entrusted to your care. 

Experiencing the Resurrection

Several years ago, I visited a man in the hospital. He was a leader in the church and well known in the community. He was near death. We talked for a few minutes then I asked what I could do for him.

He responded, “I’m glad you came to see me. I want you to know something that you can tell the people at the church. I have had several people ask me if I was afraid. I want you to tell them at the church that I am not afraid. My faith is in Jesus.” 

I responded, “I can do that. We all have hope that our future is in God’s hands.” 

I’m sure I sounded too pious because he said, “Well, I’m not hopeful because of what I believe about the future. I’m hopeful because of what I have experienced in the past.” 

He captured my interest. I said, “Tell me more about what you mean. I want to represent you well.” 

He said, “I look back over my life, all the mistakes I’ve made, all the times I’ve turned away from Jesus, gone my own way, strayed, and got lost. And time after time, he found a way to get to me. He would show up and get me. He was looking for me when I wasn’t looking for him. I don’t think he will let something like my dying defeat his love for me. So, tell them I’m not afraid. Whether I live or die, Jesus is with me. 

I experienced the resurrection again that day. 

A New Normal

Simon Peter and his friends decide to go fishing. They want to get back to normal. Jesus shows up and gives them a new normal. He says, “What I have been doing, I want you to keep doing. As the Father sent me so I send you.” Or in other words, “Feed my lambs. Care for my sheep.” 

So here is a question for this week and throughout the Easter season. What if you are called to be the resurrection, to live a new normal? What if the presence of Jesus could be witnessed in who you are and what you say and do? 

Think about it and then decide what one thing you might say or do to reveal the new normal. It’s a tough assignment. To “care for my lambs” is to face the fact that some are going to stay lambs for forty years and never become sheep. “Feed my sheep” is not simple at all. Some of them refuse to eat. How will you lead into that unexpected interruption? 

You Are Never Alone

There will be moments of exasperation when you might be more of a nursery school teacher than you are their leader. But just as God sent Jesus, you are now being sent. Once your life has been interrupted by the resurrection, in whatever leadership situation you find yourself, look closely. The One who has called and equipped you for this ministry is nearby. You are never alone. 

That is the new normal. Leading into unexpected interruptions changes what is normal, especially when the interruption is the resurrection of Jesus. 

Who you are is how you lead.

I’m back to my old question, “How are you doing today?” You just celebrated your first Easter at home. No in-person crowds, or music, or Easter rush. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t have more people watching online, or rousing Easter music, or any less work and excitement, but did you ever think that you would spend an Easter Sunday at home?

What about the post-Easter letdown? Have you given thought to what next Sunday will be? Usually, you plan special events for the Sunday after in order not to be hurt and embarrassed by the noticeable collapse in attendance. But, because of the pandemic, this Easter is different. 

Discover a New Normal

Things are different. Did you take this week off? Where did you go? How are you relaxing? I know your answer. So, how are you doing?

As great and as wonderful the music, the worship, and the people, Easter Sunday is a lot of work. I’m confessing here. I spent hours planning the worship experiences for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. I wanted people to experience the story of Jesus’ passion. But, after the excitement of Easter Sunday, the pressure of preaching a message of hope, and the activities for people of all ages, there was a part of me that whispered, “Easter is over. Now we can go back to normal.”

But, in the middle of my ministry, I discovered a new normal. A shift took place. I began to look at every Sunday as Easter Sunday. Instead of Easter becoming a disruption of what was normal, Easter became the new normal. 

The Resurrection in John

Of all the Gospels, John seems to be most aware of the problems created by Easter. Easter is the resurrection of Jesus. No one denies that. But John understood that Easter is also the departure of Jesus. The Gospel of John consists of twenty-one chapters. The public ministry of Jesus ends in Chapter 12. The remaining 9 chapters are a farewell. There is a farewell meal, farewell discourses, a farewell prayer, and then the farewell. John, more than any other writer, sets the tone for the new normal. “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in me. In my father’s house are many rooms” (John 14:1–2). 

There is a deep and profound change. The disciples are like children sitting on the floor playing with their toys when suddenly they look up to discover that Mom and Dad are getting to leave. They ask three questions: “Where are you going? Can we go? Well, who will stay with us?” 

Jesus answers, “Where am I going? I’m going to my Father and your Father.”

They ask, “Can we go?”

Jesus: “Where I am going you cannot go now. You can go later.” 

Disciples: “Then who will stay with us?”

Jesus: “I will ask the Father and he will send the Spirit, who will be with you always.”

John understands Easter to be a new normal, but the disciples are ready to go back to what they perceive as normal. Simon Peter and six others go fishing. Easter was over. It was good while it lasted. It was wonderful to be sure, but you can’t squeeze a lifetime out of one moment. Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” In other words, “I’m glad things are back to normal.” But while he and his companions are fishing, Jesus appears. After they have breakfast together, Jesus looks at Simon and says, “Simon, do you love me?” “Feed my sheep.”

What has changed your life more?

So, I’ve been thinking. What has changed your life more, the pandemic or the resurrection?

Maybe a better question is, how as the pandemic made you more aware of the resurrection? As Easter people (as Jesus followers) there are some things you might do so show the reality of the resurrection: 

  1. Keep in mind and heart that relationships are as important as ever. How you relate to people during this time is as important as what you do. Care and compassion reveal more of Jesus than anything you might know or do.
  2. Be generous in your assumptions.
  3. Deliver groceries to the people who are in isolation.
  4. Share the hard to find commodities with those who are experiencing financial difficulties or with those who can’t get out to buy them.
  5. Cook a meal and offer it to your neighbors. You might do this as an individual or as a church.
  6. Offer entertainment and relationship to those filled with dread.
  7. Help people find the resources they might need. In times of crisis, it is difficult for some people to keep up with the facts, relevant news, and the resources provided. Be loving and kind in sharing what you know.
  8. Learn to make masks and offer them to your neighbors.
  9. Keep in mind that there are systemic problems, not problem people.
  10. You have other ideas. Remember, all you do is with love and grace.

May the Resurrection be Your Normal

Maybe this pandemic has awakened the true normal and is offering you another opportunity to be the evidence of the resurrection. The pandemic surely changes your living, but it will not have the changing impact as the resurrection.

Maybe you can think of it this way: Suppose you have a ten-thousand-dollar bill. After several days of admiring it, being in awe of it, showing it to your friends, what do you do with it? You don’t hand it over to pay for your cup of coffee. You don’t use it to pay for hotdogs and hamburgers. That ten-thousand-dollar bill will have meaning only after you have changed it into a sack full of concrete acts of grace. 

Now, what will last longer, the pandemic or the resurrection? After breakfast, Jesus looks at Simon and says, “Simon, do you love me?” “Tend my lambs and feed my sheep.” When you answer that question, you are telling me how you are doing. 

May the resurrection be your normal.

Over the past several weeks, I have been reflecting upon several things. From General Conference to Bible study to the Resurrection, I have been asking myself the question, “Is it worth my life?”

Without exception, every congregation I visit, whether to worship or to introduce a new pastor, there is a question and conversation about the action of the February General Conference.

I hear statements like the following:

  • Our church is open to all people, do we have to have a pastor that supports the Traditional Plan?
  • Because that pastor supported the One Church Plan my family will be leaving the church.
  • Our congregation has voted to leave the United Methodist Church because the leadership doesn’t believe in the authority of the Scripture.
  • You get the point.

I have been accused of being “focused to a fault” upon our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I found myself reflecting on the actions of the General Conference, the rulings of the Judicial Council, and the unlimited commentaries (the good, the bad, and the ugly).

Personally, because I have found it all to be a huge distraction, I have been asking myself the question, “Is this worth my life?”

Reading, Reflecting, Responding

The Monday after Easter, the West Ohio Conference began a study of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. As I look at the context of this letter, written primarily to a Gentile church, a group of outsiders, I have taken the truth of the text and applied it to my everyday life.

I have experienced the tension between law and grace, the misunderstanding of grace, a challenge to examine the foundations of my faith, and an invitation to deepen my relationships with you, my sisters and brothers in Christ.

As I have opened myself to a daily pattern of reading, reflecting, and responding to Paul’s discussion and how the truth of the letter can be applied to my life, I have been asking myself, “Will this study really make a difference in the life and ministry of the people called Methodists in the West Ohio Conference?” “Is this worth my time and effort?” And I wondered again, “Is it worth my life?”

Now, I must confess, I have asked myself that question many times over the years.  Every Easter, as I reflect upon the events of the day, I ask myself “is the resurrection worth my life?”

Returning to the Question

Over the 45 years of my ministry, as I have observed that church people like the idea of “God, Christ, and the church” but seem to be afraid to trust that if Christ really was God they would be perceived as being simple-minded, shallow, foolish, or “old fashioned.”  It seems that to believe in Jesus is just not sophisticated enough to gain their loyalty.

If I take that thought one step further, I believe I can safely say that one of the reasons that most self-identifying Christians stay home on Sunday mornings is because, deep down inside, they really don’t believe that “if you have seen Jesus you have seen God.”  Because there is no real foundation of faith or depth of relationship, there is no motivation to go to a place that is grounded in that very specific conviction. So the question becomes, “Is this worth my life?”

As I have reflected upon this, one of my favorite scriptures comes to mind. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, “…the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (I Corinthians 1:25)

Is It Worth My Life Title Slide Transforming Mission

Feeling Foolish?

John Updike, in “A Month of Sundays,” tells the story of Clint Tidwell.  Tidwell is the pastor of a church in a small Southern town. One of the members of his congregation is the 80-year-old owner and editor of the local newspaper. The old journalist believes Tidwell to be one of the finest preachers around and wants everyone to know of Tidwell’s wisdom. So, he publishes a summary of Tidwell’s Sunday sermon every Monday morning in the paper.  Although the journalist means well, Tidwell is often amazed and embarrassed by the difference of what is reported he said and what he actually said.

Tidwell’s deepest amazement and embarrassment came one Monday morning after Easter. He was startled to read the words of the headline, “Tidwell Claims Jesus Christ Rose from The Dead.” A red flush crept up Tidwell’s neck. He thought to himself, “Of course I claimed that Christ rose from the dead, but was that headline news? What would the neighbors think?” He thought to himself, “I said what I was supposed to say on Easter. Christ rose from the dead.” But suddenly, as he looked at the headline, what had been a routine Easter sermon had Tidwell feeling rather foolish.

Claiming a New Life in Christ

As I think about it, many of us feel foolish because we have not claimed our new life in Christ. We continue to live on the Saturday side of Easter. Because the resurrection is so incredible, we have not decided whether it is worth our lives or not.

Kirk Bryon Jones, author of the Jazz of Preaching, wrote, “We don’t do different well.  In social relations, all too often we interpret different as deficient…But the resurrection means constantly challenging our fear of the unknown, and even more…challenging our fear ‘of the loss of the known.’ The resurrection means learning to relax in the experience of new life.”

Any reflection I do upon the resurrection brings me to the discovery that the attention of the early church was focused on the transforming power of the risen Christ.  Those early followers of Jesus saw themselves as evidence of the power of the Resurrection.  Their lives had changed.

Dare We Believe It

Mary met Jesus as a gardener. She is the forerunner of all Easter faith. Mary believed and passed along the legacy of Christ. She prompted folks, like John and Peter, like Tidwell, and like you and me, to say what we believe: “I believe in Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell…and on the third day…”

Dare we believe it? Dare we put everything on it?  Is it worth our lives?

I have been thinking about it and reflecting upon it. As foolish as it might seem, I have come to this conclusion again: It is worth every breath!

How about you?

Living into Easter

I have a confession to make. Over my years of ministry, I was much busier on the Saturday side of Easter than I was on the days following Easter.

The week preceding Resurrection Sunday, beginning with Palm Sunday, was full of activities. Each activity had its own meaning and purpose. Everything from the children singing in the parade of palm branches to the sounds of silence in a darkened sanctuary. From egg hunts with children running and laughing to holy communion with adults somber and reflective.

Add to those activities Easter Sunrise service, Easter breakfast, and Easter worship, with people busy cooking, singing, teaching, and preaching, I was worn out on Easter Sunday afternoon. Although it was all good and mostly went well, I was relieved when it was over. I could go back to my routine where everything was not so special.

May I state the obvious? There is nothing profound here, but I have to say it. The important part of Easter happens after the resurrection, not before. As good and as necessary each and every activity is leading up to Easter, what is vital and what gives life and hope to the world comes after the resurrection celebration.

Now what do we do? Transforming Mission

What do we do now?

In John 21, we have a story that captures the mood and dilemma of the followers of Jesus after the Resurrection. In my imagination, I can hear them asking one another “What do we do now?”

So, what do we do after Easter?

A Conversation Between Jesus & Simon Peter

Simon Peter and six others went fishing. Easter was over. It was beautiful while it lasted. So, Simon Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” While he was fishing, the Risen Christ shows up and asks, “Simon, do you love me?”

Based upon my years of ministry, I can imagine the conversation going something like this:

Simon Peter responds, “Well, truthfully, that question is embarrassing; it makes me uncomfortable. It isn’t that I don’t like questions. I like questions. I like to discuss and entertain ideas. There’s something about the uncertainty that keeps my mind open. And I like the sophistication of considering various viewpoints on every issue. I like to be tolerant and open. I especially liked the three years we spend together in conversation and discussion. That’s why your question is embarrassing. ‘Do you love me?’ Maybe if you would rephrase the question. Ask me: ‘Are we good friends?’ I can answer that. What a friend we have in Jesus.”

Or maybe like this:

Simon Peter says, “I don’t think you’ve asked me the right question. What difference does it make whether or not I love you? That’s not the important thing. Faith has its own objective reality and we shouldn’t go around talking about how we feel. We should just present the message as it is. We should just read the scripture and express our thoughts. Ask me another question that is more appropriate to the three years of learning that I’ve had with you. None of those old questions that make a person feel guilty. Ask me about Christology or ecclesiology. I like essay questions.”

The Right Question

I can image Jesus responding, “But, Peter, it is the right question. What is to prevent you from being arrogant when you’re successful if you have not answered this question? What is to prevent you from being depressed at failure if you have not clearly faced up to this question? When it has all been said and done, it is the quality of the relationship you have with me that will make all the difference in your life.”

Now Simon Peter asks, “Would you repeat the question?”

“Yes.”

“Do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” said Simon Peter.

Jesus responds, “Then tend my lambs and feed my sheep.”

Your Assignment

This is the assignment of Easter. Because of the resurrection, this assignment is made meaningful each and every morning. You and I have the opportunity to translate it into our everyday living and into the life and ministry of our congregations.

But after all the activity on the Saturday side of Easter, who has the energy to tend the lambs and feed the sheep on Monday? Some of those lambs will still be lambs 40 years from now. Some of them will refuse to eat.

Now what do we do?

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in moments of exasperation reminding them of the long-term meaning of Easter. As an example, we started the bible study “Following Jesus Every Day: Galatians, Gospel of Grace.” This is one of the letters Paul wrote to a church struggling to decide “what do we do now?”

According to our story in John, Jesus said, “I want you to keep doing what I was doing. As the Father sent me so I send you.”

So, what was Jesus doing? He was feeding people, caring for people who were pushed aside, healing those who were broken, restoring relationships for those who had become disconnected, serving in humility, and dying on a cross.

Now, do you believe that?

Easter Sunday is over. Now, what will you do? Go back to business as usual?

“Simon, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

“Then tend my lambs and feed my sheep. As the Father sent me so I send you.”

Now, what are you going to do?

What transformation will you experience this Easter?

Over the years, as I prepare for Easter Sunday, I wonder why the women, in Mark’s story of the resurrection, did not say anything to anyone.  I know the story is that “they were afraid.”

But who else can truly tell the story? They are witnesses to the resurrection. They are involved in it.

Similarly, the late Dr. Peter J. Gomes, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard extends this message to each one of us today. He wrote,

“…the resurrection is a continuing event which involves everyone who dares be involved in it. Easter is not just about Jesus, it’s about you.  Jesus has already claimed his new life. What about you?  Easter is not just about the past, it’s about the future.  Your best days are ahead of you.  The proof of the resurrection is in your hands and in your life.”

So, how can we be involved in the resurrection?  How do we become proof of the resurrection?

Easter Transformation quote Transforming MissionLove as Jesus Loved  

To be involved with the resurrection, you and I must love as Jesus loved. E. Stanley Jones, in his book Gandhi: A Portrayal of a Friend, tells the story of his first encounter with Mahatma Gandhi. Jones asked him, “What would you, a Hindu leader, tell me, a Christian, to do in order to make Christianity a normal part of India?”   

Without hesitation, Gandhi responded with clarity and directness.

“First, I would suggest that all of you Christians begin to live more like Jesus Christ.  Second, practice your religion without adulterating it or toning it down. Third, emphasize love and make it your working force, for love is central in Christianity. Fourth, study the non-Christian religions more sympathetically to find the good that is within them, in order to have a more sympathetic approach to the people.” 

The great Hindu leader said, “Your faith doesn’t need to be changed; it doesn’t need to be added to or subtracted from; it needs to be lived as it is.” 

Are you “All In”? 

In other words, to be involved with the resurrection, you and I must be “all in” followers of JesusWe identify, not only with Jesus but, with the people with whom Jesus identified.

That means we will have to identify with the poor and oppressed, the marginalized and forgotten, and with the uber-religious.  Identification and relationships are essential to being “all in”. You and I will have to have personal contact with people who suffer as well as celebrate.

“All In” Actions

Consider the following actions:

  • serving meals, visiting the sick and lonely.
  • assisting those who are physically or mentally disabled
  • befriending a neglected child
  • leading your church into the community to engage with the people in your neighborhood or city

These actions are ways we can identify with the people with whom Jesus identified. As we do, we can discover the humbling joy of receiving more than we give.  Through identification with persons and involvement in their lives, we can become the proof of the resurrection.  

To be involved with the resurrection, you and I, must not only love like Jesus, be “all in” followers of Jesus, but we must listen to the witness of those who have been with Jesus themselves.

Read Mark’s story,

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him…And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” 

Are You Listening?

The greatest clue to being involved in the resurrection is in the witness of the women at the empty tomb. When the women do speak, when they find their tongues, when they witness, I will listen.

Will you?  

Maybe the greatest proof of the resurrection is seen in the transformation of our living.  We don’t even have to say much when we are loving one another as we have been loved. But we do need to listen for the ones who know Jesus personally. That’s where we’ll hear, see, and experience the power of the resurrection. That’s where we’ll claim the new life. This Sunday, my prayer for you and all who gather is this: Easter transformation. May it be so!

Over the past several weeks, I have asked you to pray that I am a faithful witness to the resurrection of Jesus. I have asked you to pray that I become the resurrection, that the presence of Jesus be seen and experienced in the life I live. The following story helps to illustrate my desire to be that faithful witness.¹

God’s Invitation

    Many years ago, there lived a young and gifted woman named Sophia. She had received a vision in which God spoke to her as a dear friend. In this conversation, God asked Sophia to dedicate her life to the task of translating and distributing the Word of God through her country.

    Now, the printing press had only recently been invented, and the only Bibles to be found were written in Latin and keep under lock and key within churches. Sophia was from a poor farming village on the outskirts of the city, so the task seemed impossible. She would have to raise a vast sum of money to purchase the necessary printing equipment, rent a building to house it, and hire scholars with the ability to translate the Latin verses into the country’s common language.

    However, the impossibility of the task did not sway her in the least. After having received her vision, Sophia sold the few items she possessed and left the village to live on the streets of the city. She began to beg for the money that was required, as she dedicated herself to any work that was available in order to help with the funds.

    Raising the money proved to be a long and difficult task. There were only a few who gave generously, most only gave little, if anything at all. In addition to this, living on the streets involved great personal suffering. Gradually, over the next fifteen years, the money began to accumulate.

    Shortly before the plans for the printing press could be set in motion, a dreadful flood devastated a nearby town, destroying the homes and livelihood of many people. When the news reached Sophia, she gathered up what she had raised and spent it on food for the hungry, material to help rebuild destroyed homes, and basic provisions for those who had been displaced.

    Eventually, the town began to recover from the natural disaster that had taken place. Remembering the vision that God had planted deep in her heart, Sophia left and returned to the city to start over again.

    As the years passed, the task of making and saving money took a toll on the beautiful Sophia. Many were impacted by her love and dedication, even though the people were poor, the money began to accumulate once again.

    However, after nine more years, disaster struck again. This time a plague descended upon the city, taking the lives of thousands and leaving many children without family or food.

     By now Sophia was tired and ill. Yet, without hesitation, she used the money that had been collected to buy medicines for the sick, homes for the orphaned, and land where the dead could be buried safely.

    Never once did she forget the vision that God had imparted to her, but the severity of the plague required that she set this sacred call to one side to help with the emergency. Only when the shadow of the plague had lifted did she once again take to the street, driven by her desire to translate the Word of God and distribute it among the people.

    Finally, shortly before her death, Sophia was able to gather together the money required for the printing press, the building, and the translators. Although she was, this time, close to death, Sophia lived long enough to see the first Bibles printed and distributed.

    Even though she got the Bibles translated and printed only once, it is said that Sophia accomplished her task of translating and distributing the Word of God three times during her life. The first two were more beautiful and radiant than the last.¹

The Resurrection is the Presence of Jesus

Using the Word of God as a focus, this story reveals the reality of the resurrection with this question: “Is the resurrection something to be proven or is the resurrection the presence of Jesus lived out in and through my life?” The reality of the resurrection cannot be heard or received without the incarnated presence of the living Christ.

For me to say I believe in the resurrection apart from being the place where the resurrection becomes a living, breathing act is inconsistent with my witness. The resurrection is reflected in what I say, in what I do, how I relate to people, how I respond to the social, political, economic, global structures in which I live.

If I attempt to explain the resurrection or to prove the resurrection, I will always end up describing something less than the reality of the resurrection. To say, “He is Risen” is not a statement to be repeated as much as it is an act of faithful living. He is Risen exists in the world only when we live it out by engaging fully in the world in which we live.

Please continue to pray that I am fully engaged in the world in which I live, the communities in which I work, and the lives in which I experience God’s love. It is my hope that one day, you will say, he was a faithful witness to the resurrection of Jesus. We could tell by experiencing the preaching, teaching, healing, caring, loving of Jesus in and through him.

  1. Story adapted from The Orthodox Heretic by Peter Rollins, pages 13-15.

Last week I asked you to pray that I would be found guilty of being a Christian. In a way that was a foolish request. I was baptized at age 6 and confirmed as a member of the Methodist Church at age 11. I received a call to ministry at age 14 and my first appointment as a preacher at age 20.

For the past 44 years, I have faithfully preached the gospel, introduced people to Jesus, led congregations into their communities to feed the hungry, provide shelter for the homeless, care for persons with HIV/AIDS, etc.

To ask that I be found guilty of being a Christian was foolish.

What Does it Mean to be a Faithful Witness?

In another way, I was asking you to pray that I am a faithful witness to the Resurrection of Jesus. Luke, over and over, uses these words to express the life and work of the early disciples:

  • “…of that all of us are witnesses” – Acts 2:32
  • “To this we are witnesses…” – Acts 3:15
  • “And we are witnesses to these things…” – Acts 5:32
  • “We are witnesses to all he did…” Acts 10:39

I want you to pray that I am a faithful witness.

The question is, “What does it mean to be a faithful witness to the Resurrection?” Here are a few possibilities.

Possibility #1: To Believe the Resurrection is True

Is it to believe that the Resurrection is true?

For many people today, belief in the Resurrection simply acts as a guarantee of eternal life. We talk about Jesus being raised from the dead and how he is going to take us all to heaven one day. I must say I don’t believe God raised Jesus from the dead to prove that he could raise a few cantankerous saints.

God could do that.

The belief in our own immortality is persistent. It seems, that for many of us, belief in the Resurrection is actually a barrier to the reality of it. We can find people within the church who affirm the Resurrection for selfish and self-serving reasons. It is all centered on the desire to enter heaven. I believe God raised Jesus from the dead for a different purpose.

Possibility #2: To Live the Truth of the Resurrection

Is it to live the truth of the Resurrection? In and through the Resurrection, God established permanent residence on earth. The Resurrection places Jesus on this side of the grave, here and now, in the middle of this life.

Jesus is not standing on the shore of eternity inviting us to join him there. He is standing beside us, strengthening us in this life.

The good news of the Resurrection is not that we shall die and go home with Jesus, but that Jesus has risen and has come home with us. On the morning of the resurrection, God put life in the present tense and gave us the power to live in the here and now.

The early disciples proclaimed, “He is risen!” not because the dead rise. They made this proclamation because they were alive and were doing the things he had taught them to do.

Being a faithful witness to the Resurrection is to proclaim, “He is risen” by doing the things he has taught us to do. In and through the Resurrection, our lives are reshaped to conform to his life. Because of the Resurrection, our minds are reshaped to conform to his mind, and our living is reshaped to conform to his living.witness to the resurrection transforming mission

Possibility #3: Being the Living Presence of Christ in Everyday Life

The good news of the Resurrection is Jesus has risen and has come home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, prisoner sisters and brothers with him. What if being a witness is not related so much to what we believe but is the primary way we respond to the hopelessness and brokenness in the communities in which we live?

Does the living presence of Christ show through our living?

The good news of the Resurrection is Jesus has risen and gives us the courage to confront the evil powers of this world. The evil powers of racial bias, gender bias, cultural bias, economic bias, residential bias, educational bias do not stand a chance against the power of the Resurrection.

What if being a witness is not based upon an affirmation of Christ’s living presence, but upon the incarnated presence of Christ in each of us? Would that mean that our faith in the Risen Christ would be seen in the way we love and care? And not only in how we care for each other in our church families but for everyone. By everyone, I mean all who are hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, prisoners – all our sisters and brothers Jesus already loves.

Be the Resurrection

What if we, as Christians, are not called to believe in the Resurrection but rather are called to be the Resurrection?  Christ’s presence will be witnessed in what we say and do.

This season of the Resurrection, I continue to hear the words of Peter Gomes:

“…the resurrection is a continuing event which involves everyone who dares be involved in it.  Easter is not just about Jesus, it’s about you.”

Jesus has already claimed his new life.  What about you? Easter is not just about the past, it’s about the future.  Your best days are ahead of you.  The proof of the resurrection is in your hands and in your life.

witness to the resurrection transforming mission

“The proof of the resurrection is in your hands and in your life.” Please pray that I am a faithful witness of the Resurrection! And know that I am praying for you.

O God, raise Jesus in our lives so that all we do is a witness to your love and presence. So let it be!

Kirk Byron Jones, author of The Jazz of Preaching and editor of The African-American Preaching Library writes:

“Handling the resurrection is challenging; being handled by the resurrection is even more challenging.  In Alaine Alsire’s novel, Lazarus’ problem was not being raised; his problem was being raised ‘different.’ He was not the same person. Christian resurrection is not just about coming back to life, but coming back to life ‘different.’  We don’t do different well. In social relations, all too often we interpret different as deficient…

Being handled by the resurrection means constantly challenging our fear of the unknown, and even more…constantly challenging our fear ‘of the loss of the known.’  Being handled by the resurrection means learning to relax in the experience of new life. May we enter with God into the work of changing and recomposing our lives.  May we rise and cheer such resurrections.”

Any reflection I do upon the resurrection brings me to the discovery that the attention of the early church was focused on the transforming power of the risen Christ.  Those early followers of Jesus saw themselves as evidence of the power of the Christ to transform lives.

Even though there were those who did not want Jesus around, God raised him up and put him back to preaching, teaching, and healing. The early followers of Jesus understood Jesus to be with them in the midst of their present living. He was beside them, sustaining them. He was doing his work of preaching, teaching, and healing in and through them.

Transforming Presence

On the morning of the Resurrection, God gave us God’s transforming presence.  For me, God’s presence does not necessarily show up in the empty tomb, but the lives of grace-filled Christ-followers who put faith into action.

The crowning evidence of God’s transforming presence is not a vacant grave, but a Spirit-filled congregation of Christ-followers. Not a rolled-away stone, but a carried-away church. Not feel-good activities, but people engaged in the life and vitality of the community in which they live.

For me, the proof of the resurrection is seen in our love for one another and for the people who surround us. On the morning of the Resurrection, God gave us Jesus, raised from the dead, to new life, to new direction, to new possibilities, to new hope.

The power of Jesus’ resurrection is to reshape our lives to live the way Jesus lived and to think the way Jesus thought. The thrust of the resurrection is to help us change our way of living so that it begins to resemble the life of Jesus.

For you and me, the resurrection is the greatest event in all of life. It means that we live all of life in the presence, love, and power of God who we know and have experienced in Jesus.

A Continuing Event

The late Dr. Peter J. Gomes, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard wrote:

“…the resurrection is a continuing event which involves everyone who dares be involved in it.  Easter is not just about Jesus, it’s about you.  Jesus has already claimed his new life.  What about you? Easter is not just about the past, it’s about the future.  Your best days are ahead of you.  The proof of the resurrection is in your hands and in your life.

Wow! What a call to ministry! To help answer that call, I invite you to participate, with me, in a spiritual and missional spring training.

Sign me up!

This is time for you and your congregation to practice the fundamentals of reading the scripture, praying and reflecting upon the scripture, and responding to the scripture.

Missional Spring Training

Beginning this Sunday, Easter Sunday, and continuing through the Season of Easter, we will focus on several parables from Luke’s gospel. We’ll focus on one parable each week. Throughout the week, we’ll look at each verse in the parable. Each day we’ll ask a variation of, “How does this reflect our current reality?”

It is my hope that we will become more and more the evidence of the Resurrection. As we become more and more acquainted with God’s presence in the people we meet and in the communities in which we live, may we become evidence of the resurrection.

May we enter with God into the work of changing and recomposing our lives.  May we rise and cheer such resurrections.

Sign me up!