Where Is Your Sting
Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
I pray that you had a joyous Easter yesterday.
In one Easter sermon, I heard someone suggest that Easter is God giving us a second chance. My first reaction was “not the second, but the millionth.” But whether for the second or millionth time, Easter is an opportunity for us to remember, and believe, and recommit to the saving grace of our God, shown in the resurrection of Jesus. When Christ rises, we rise too, and the faith that Jesus’ disciples had, and the work they did together, was redeemed.
In times like these, to celebrate Easter is like a protest against despair. What seemed like a humiliating defeat for Jesus’ disciples became, in ways they couldn’t even comprehend, love’s victory over death. As Paul would write in 1 Corinthians 15:55,
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?
So yes, Easter is proof that God has not given up on us, and we are not condemned to despair and death. We do have the opportunity to try again, and live free from our past. But because we know that God will go to hell and back for us, that death is not the final answer, we can have the courage of not just overcoming our past, but striking out into something new. We can even try the unexplored, knowing that even if we make a mistake, or take a detour, God will not leave us abandoned to fate. I think God smiles more when we take a new path in faith, even if we stumble, than if we stick to the tried and true because we are afraid or don’t heed God’s call to move forward.
When we look around, there is much to concern us, and I have heard of the fears of church leaders who wonder if their church will ever go back to “normal” or if they will feel confident in their church’s future again. We do have a couple of churches that are facing some serious setbacks, and several churches who are or will be seeking new pastoral leadership. What with the continuing uncertainty of COVID (Is there a new variant coming? Do we keep masking?), and the horrific backdrop of the war in Ukraine, it would be easy to wonder whether our work, our feeble attempts, will ever be enough. But actually, I’ve found that when things are in disarray, we are more free to try something new.
And the good news is that we are not working alone. We have our partners in ministry, of course, and we have God directing, using, and magnifying our work. Someone once said that we are weaving a beautiful tapestry, but we only see the back of the tapestry, so we only see the knots and loose ends. I think we are weaving that beautiful tapestry, but each of us only sees a few stitches—and we may not even know why our purple stitches got pushed up against those green stitches, because we can’t see the blooming iris we create together.
Yesterday was the first worship service for Interwoven, our new worshiping community. The service was moving, and hope-filled, and very well-organized, and faithful. And there was mention of the legacy of South Hills Presbyterian Church, which was closed several years ago. We still miss that church, but their ministry lives on in the lives of the members of the church, and now through Interwoven, which is partially funded by the proceeds of the South Hills church property. Seeing the diverse group of people worshiping together at Interwoven, I pray that God continues to guide them and all of us to take this new path, giving thanks for providing us the resources from the good work of a prior generation. And I pray that the people of South Hills know that their work was not in vain, but produces fruit over the years, in ways they may not even know.
Indeed, may this Easter season be a time of new hopes, new visions, new life and energy and courage to go forth into this very changed world, as changed people. We have the strength of our roots, our faith, our resources, and our traditions. Let us go out like Mary, and declare, “I have seen the Lord!”
There is a Korean Christian poet named Ku Sang who wrote of this renewed spirit: On an old plum tree stump, seemingly dead and rotten, like a garland of victory flowers gleam, dazzling.
Rooted in you, even in death all things remain alive;
we see them reborn, transfigured.
How then could we doubt our own Resurrection since by your own you gave us proof?
Since there is your Resurrection and ours, Truth exists;
since there is your Resurrection and ours, Justice triumphs;
since there is your Resurrection and ours, suffering accepted has value;
since there is your Resurrection and ours, our faith, hope, love, are not in vain; since there is your Resurrection and ours, our lives are not an empty abyss.
May we hold fast to the knowledge of resurrection love, and with that love, may we go out and live into the promise—may we be the promise—for our churches, our families, and for the world.
Beholding the Resurrection,