But the message of the Risen Christ calls us to respond with God’s help
To the Expositor:
As we approach this religious season of Easter, many examine their beliefs and are both challenged and inspired. A parent, trying to discuss it with his children, noted they would go to church on Easter Sunday and the minister would give them a small cross during children’s time to remind them that Jesus Christ died on the cross, and rose again on Easter morning. One child announced, “I think I’d rather stand outside with my basket and wait for the Easter bunny.” Many of us might echo those sentiments, preferring to avoid the challenging message of the cross in favour of the unreality of the warm and fuzzy Easter bunny instead. However, we all know that life isn’t always warm and fuzzy. Life presents joys, sorrows, difficulties, pain, delight and everything in between, and the cross, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ provides a guiding light and an answer to the meaning of life.
A ministerial colleague once related an experience of growing up and learning of Jesus, as a Friend in life’s struggles and One who would accompany in life, death and life beyond death. The colleague caught the message, attended theological college, was ordained and went out to serve God in a major denomination that sent him to a downtown street mission. There he witnessed the buying and selling of drugs, fed soup to homeless folks, and had conversations with street workers—all of which was totally overwhelming and so far removed from anything he had ever experienced in his brief life time. Completely overwhelmed, he called home, contemplating coming home and abandoning the whole mission and service of God. The advice he received completely changed his life and mission, for his Mom said, “You can serve God anywhere—you are a child of God and God will help you.” So he stayed and over time noticed that every week the Mission offered some singing and talking after the weekly soup and sandwich lunch. As they started the first chorus of “The Old Rugged Cross,” the glazed look in the eyes of the rag tag people who had come to eat a bowl of soup and be warm for an hour began to change. The hardened lines in their foreheads began to soften. By the time they got to the last line, “I will cherish the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown,” the expressions had changed. Where once bitterness, pain and anger had lived alone, comfort, for just a minute, reigned. That, this young ministerial colleague discovered, was the power of Jesus and the message of the cross. Their lives had been changed, if only for an hour and next week they would need to be changed again by the ideas and ideals of the Risen Jesus Christ. The ministerial colleague had also been changed and inspired to represent Christ in the street ministry. No matter how difficult or challenging it all became for all the persons involved, the Risen Christ was there as a constant presence, source of hope, joyful Friend in times of celebration and a source of Power in the midst of powerlessness. That’s what I believe God is saying to us today—that Christ is alive and in need of our hands, feet, eyes, minds to represent Him and to carry forth His ideas and ideals. Many would say, well I’ll never be a street person or experience those challenges, and that may be, but rest assured life will present challenges that need an Eternal Friend, prayer and support. We will need to indeed “cling to that old rugged cross” and live out that idea in whatever way or style of theology fits for us. Each of us will need to examine the words of that old hymn written in 1912 to see how we can live them out today and what they might mean to us today. The message points to a Risen Christ, a Divine Presence who can’t be sealed in a tomb, but who bursts forth into the world even today, and whose Spirit infuses our world. May we respond to the call with God’s help.
Rev. Jean Brown
Rev. Jean Brown is a retired United Church supply clergyperson serving temporarily in the Centenary Pastoral Charge (Maberly, Sharbot Lake, Parham United Churches) until Easter. Rev. Brown is a Haweater, born in Mindemoya, ordained through Mindemoya United Church in 1990 and currently residing with spouse Allan Gurnsey near Sharbot Lake.