Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March 5, 2013

John 7:40-41
When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, "This is really the prophet."  Others said, "This is the Messiah."  But some asked, "Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he?"

As Jesus approached His Passion, He spoke about things that many people couldn't understand.  He spoke of living water which would eternally quench the thirst of all who believed in Him.  He spoke of His death and resurrection in three days.  He spoke against legalism, and sought out the least, the last and the lost.

Some said He was a prophet.  Others said He was the Messiah.  But, the Pharisees and others asked, "Where does he come from?  Who are his people?  What prophet can come from Galilee?"

What would you have done in that situation?  It may be easy to say from our prospective that we would have followed Him no matter what; but, we have an advantage that people of that time didn't have.  We know the rest of the story.  We know about Easter.

We know about the stone being rolled away, the women at the tomb, the angel, and the road to Emmaus.  We know about Thomas putting his fingers in the wounds, and Jesus' appearance in the upper room.  We know about Easter.

Even though Jesus was right there and could be touched and seen and questioned, His true purpose was unclear.  They didn't know He would be a constant source of joy and hope forever more.  They were living without Easter; lost, afraid, clinging to what they could see and hold.

Things have not changed that much in twenty centuries.  There are billions of people today who identify themselves as disciples of Jesus, but there is still so much fear, loneliness, emptiness, and despair in the world.

Our first instinct when we hear talk of those living without Easter is to think of people in some distant corner of the world, or those affected by disaster.  Mission is, indeed, a wonderful way to reach out and be of service.  However, are we truly living our faith if we reach across the homeless person on the steps of the church to hand the pastor a check for missions?  There are people living without Easter all around us.

Being without Easter has nothing to do with money, position, or where you were born.  It has to do with having a hole in your soul, emptiness in your life, a lack of hope, a bend in your moral compass.

We who are blessed with this wonderful faith, who put ashes on our foreheads as we prepare to stand at the foot of the cross, have an obligation to be a viable, visible presence of hope, love and justice in the world.  So, how do we bring Easter to those who live without it?

We have to be witnesses to our faith.  Being a witness does not mean carrying a Bible everywhere you go, or dragging people to church with you.  Being a witness is about knowing what it means to be a Christian and living that out in everything you do.

I am amazed at long-time church goers who don't know the basic beliefs of their denomination.  We say that scripture is central to our faith, but do you live the Bible, or just study it?  If I read your Facebook posts or your Tweets, would I know that you are a disciple?  Do you, like the Pharisees, judge others by where they are from, or which neighborhood they live in?

Do you talk about your faith with your children and grandchildren?  Do you help them look at their problems and challenges from a theological perspective?  Do you take your faith to work with you?  Our witness is revealed in how we supervise others, how we take direction and criticism, whether we put honesty and integrity before power and profit.

Jesus said, "If a person is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, I, the Son of Man, will be ashamed of that person when I return in the glory of my Father with the holy angels." (Mark 8:38)  How can we say we are disciples if we are embarrassed to talk about our faith or apply its principles to all aspects of our lives?  If we don't even know the basic tenets of our denomination, how can we begin to offer it to others?  Being Easter to the world means having the discipline and devotion to know your faith, the resolve to apply it to everything you do, and the courage to share how it shapes your life.

How will we know we are reaching those without Easter?  We will be fruitful in blessings, in membership, in joy.  Our purpose is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, not just recruit members of our church.  In order to make disciples, we must first be disciples, and transform our own lives and communities by living our faith every day in every way.  If we do that, the spirit of Easter will abound, bringing new life, great hope and abundant joy!

~Sara Armstrong

Jeremiah 7:21-34
Psalms 78:1-39 or 78:40-72
Romans 4:13-25
John 7:37-52 

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