“Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” This is the great Good News that brings us joy as God’s people all throughout the year, but especially during the Easter season. Death has lost its sting, defeated by life and the One who brings it. Sin won’t be a permanent fixture in our existence as humans, but will be completely, finally wiped out one day. Our old evil foe, the devil, has only a short season to wreak havoc before he is completely powerless. These things give us hope in a broken world, and it’s appropriate to revel in Jesus’ victory during the season of Easter. Because He lives, we will live also. Praise God! Alleluia!
But here we are, still, living in a broken world. The victory is not complete. We still see what sin does to the world that God originally called “good.” It leads broken, bigoted people to commit acts of violence in houses of worship around the world, against Christian, Jew, and Muslim alike. It leads broken parents to commit the atrocity of ending their own child's life (The murder investigation of Andrew Freund has hit especially close to home for me, considering that he lived and died in the area where we used to live). It leads broken people to speak so negatively and harshly to some around them that it diverts their life down the path of despair, depression, and even suicide. It leads broken people to feel so overwhelmed and overcome by their circumstances that they turn to drugs, pornography, alcohol, gambling, or any number of other destructive behaviors, looking for some relief, and often finding something worse. Each of these evils is worthy of more discussion, certainly, but for the time being, let’s suffice it to say that living in a broken world is terribly difficult.
Jesus promises that the last enemy that will be defeated is death (1 Corinthians 15:26). It’s not a “maybe.” It’s a solid-gold, unshakeable promise. It WILL happen! But what to do we do in the meantime? We must live in the tension between a promise given and a promise fulfilled. Between the words of Jesus: the “It is finished!” and the “Go…make disciples.” Between the “now” and the “not yet.” The victory has been won; Christ is risen! Alleluia! What next?
If we are looking for some guidance for the next steps after our Easter joy, the book of Acts is a fitting, instructive story. It’s a picture of what it looks like after Jesus ascends, delivers the gift of the Holy Spirit, HIS Spirit, to live in and through the lives of His followers, and then scatters them to all points of the compass. There were certainly remarkable things that the leaders of the early church did in Jesus’ name, but many of them were distinctly unremarkable, simply human behaviors. They ate together in their homes. They invited others to “do life” with them. They did everything in their power to create spaces and opportunities for the Good News to be shared, for the story of Jesus to be told. So also with us, here in 2019, two thousand years later.
What are the next steps for us, here at Immanuel? I have some ideas. I’m sure you do, too. I don’t have it all figured out. But I do know that whatever circumstances in which we find ourselves - good, bad, and ugly - the Good News is still good, and I want everyone I meet to have a space and place to come into contact with the One who spread His arms open wide to hug the whole world…and died, for them! May God bless our efforts to shape our places and spaces into “soft landing spots” (more on that later!) for people to learn of His love for them.
Adventure is out there! Pastor Aaron