by Lauren Gilstrap Milley
Christians spend a lot of time at Easter focusing on Jesus rising from dead. While that’s important, it tends to overshadow the first part of the story. Jesus was – executed. Executed as a criminal. Why? Well, that’s the part of Easter that I think far too many of us “good church going Christians” conveniently overlook. Ironically, it’s exactly the part of Easter that makes it a story for absolutely everyone.
If Jesus had just been some nice guy walking around telling people to love their neighbor and turn the other cheek, would the Romans have really cared? Probably not. Instead, he was executed by the state because his message was much more dangerous.
His message was that things don’t have to be this way. There is a better way and it’s all of our responsibility to make it better. His message wasn’t about how to live in a racist world – his message was how to stand against racism and forge a new world without it. His message wasn’t just about how to forgive unfair police brutality – his message was stand with the persecuted, overturn the tables and rebuild a better system, one that’s fair for everyone. Jesus wasn’t a pacifist. Pacifists don’t get executed by the state.
So what makes Easter everyone’s story? Easter is the story of God (however you define that) saying “yes” to Jesus’ message of compassion and justice and “no” to the greedy, self-serving powers of the status quo.
Whether you believe in a bodily resurrection or not, because of Easter, Jesus’s message of a better, more fair, more just world has outlived the Empire that killed him by centuries. Because of Easter, we all should stand with those society marginalizes, speak up for the voiceless, put our pocketbooks and our pride on the line for what we know to be right.
The social expression of love is justice. That is what Jesus taught and that is what he gave his life for. Easter is God saying “no matter what they do to you, I got your back, keep going, keep fighting – light will always outshine the darkness.” And that makes it a story for everyone – everyone and anyone who wants to make the world better.
Happy Easter, Happy Spring and here’s to keeping the faith, fighting the good fight, getting in good, necessary trouble and leaving this world just a little better than we found it.
A Holy Week Reflection by Brian Rogers
Passion Week! Many emotions this week…the lowest of lows at the crucifixion, the highest of highs with Jesus overcoming death. What strikes me as an overriding theme of Passion Week is humility: the humility of Jesus, first to take on human life, and then, with humility, to wash his apostles’ feet, to go through the passion for all of us. Anne spoke eloquently about the nine Fruits of the Spirit. I believe that humility is the gateway, not only to forgive as Jesus did on the cross, but also to every one of the nine Fruits.
Humility opens the door to those Fruits so that they flourish in our lives. The Fruits wither on the vines without humility. It seems that humility is difficult to attain, retain and sustain in our society that values achievement, status and material monuments to self. Focusing on other people with needs greater than ours takes humility. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control: without humility, can we ever truly have any of these fruits? We are made in the image of God and I’m not more in God’s image than the homeless person or those of different ethnicity, religions, sexual orientation or social status. The height of humility is Jesus dying on the cross…Passion Week for us.
C.S. Lewis notes “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
Philippians 2:5-8: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Prayer for Humility
Let me have too deep a sense of humor to be proud.
Let me know my absurdity before I act absurdly.
Let me realize that when I am humble I am most human,
most truthful, and most worthy of your serious consideration.
– Daniel A. Lord, SJ
As Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the last time, his disciples thronged around him, cheering him on. When religious leaders told him to calm his followers, Jesus told them that if the people were silent, the very rocks beneath their feet would cry out in their place. What about today? Are there times when we fall silent and leave it to the stones to speak out? Join us Sunday under the tent as we begin our journey through Holy Week.
– Pastor Anne
In the spirit of “the first shall be last,” we finish up our Fruit of the Spirit series this Sunday with the first thing Paul lists. It also happens to be the one thing Jesus says is needed to inherit eternal life. I would love to have you join us this Sunday on Zoom!
– Pastor Anne
In our series on the Fruit of the Spirit, we have two left: Joy and Love. This week we’ll examine joy and how it differs from happiness. I’ve thought about that distinction for a long time and, if you’ve ever read The Gift of Imperfection by Brené Brown, you’ll find that she quotes me on this issue. To return the favor, I’ll be using a video clip of her making the connection between joy and gratitude as the Call to Worship for our online service. Right now, we all want some happiness; but what we truly need is joy.
They say that good things come to those who wait. But “they” also say, if you snooze, you lose. Well, which is it? As we continue to consider the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, this Sunday we will look at the fruit of patience and how it differs from waiting. What does patience give us that simple waiting does not? How do we cultivate actual patience in our lives? Join us Sunday!