Update From The Bishop

Update from the Bishop

Monthly Update from Bishop Gerald Mansholt

[Joseph] went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid.   Luke 23:52-53

The men said to [the women], “why do you look for the living among the dead.  He is not here, but has risen.”  Luke 24:5

Easter is about living beyond the grave.

We are entering Holy Week where Christians around the world will remember those events that are central to the faith.  We will join the crowds in shouting hosannas to the Son of David, break bread with the Servant of all, enter into sorrow while the Christ of all hangs dying, wait in silence as he lay in the tomb, and then burst forth in songs of alleluia at the Easter Vigil and again on the Day of Resurrection.

Without the resurrection there is no Christian faith and hope.  Without the resurrection there is no Christianity.  Paul put all his eggs into one Easter basket and said it this way:  If Christ is not raised, then our faith is in vain (Corinthians 15:14).

We who are part of the Church are here because we have been stunned by the news of Easter.  We received new life as we were incorporated into Christ in the waters of baptism.  But somewhere in this journey the Spirit of the Risen Christ also profoundly and personally touched our hearts and souls.  So we gather regularly in our congregations to worship and pray, to study the Bible, and give of ourselves in works of charity and service and advocacy on behalf of others.  We do this because Christ is risen.

Sadly, after two millennia the world looks more like Good Friday than Easter Sunday.  Global hunger and extreme poverty is on the increase.  Sixty million people are displaced from their homelands because of political turmoil, persecution, famine and climate change.  In this country hate crimes are on the rise. We are a divided people politically and the people we elect seem to have neither the capacity nor the courage to lead us to a better day.  Among us cancer rears its ugly head and personal lives are upheaved.  We ourselves confess that we have failed to fear and trust in God above everything else and we have not loved our neighbors as we ought.

Easter in a Good Friday world calls us to believe that all the tenderness and strength we saw scourged and stretched out on the cross lives again.   It calls us to trust the goodness and hope of Christ is alive and with us now.  The Risen Christ is with us here and now not just as a memory handed down but as the undying presence of Love Incarnate.  Paul put it this way “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20).”

I think it was William Sloane Coffin who once said in a sermon Christ was raised to put love in our hearts, decent thoughts in our heads, and more iron in our spine.  That sounds like the work of the Holy Spirit to me, calling us to claim the new life Christ has given us, to rejoice in the forgiveness of sins and the promise of life eternal, and to witness and serve here and now.  Christ is risen so we might live as people of hope.

Where in this world do people talk about living beyond the grave of death except in the Church?  People talk about death as tragedy when a terrible accident occurs.  People talk about death fatalistically as nothing is as certain as death and taxes.  Most people avoid conversations about death.  We live in a death-denying culture.

Easter does not deny nor avoid the reality of death.  But Easter is about living beyond the grave.  Because Christ loved the world all the way to his death on the cross, we live with Easter hope and peace.  We need not fear the grave.  Our sins are forgiven.  We are reconciled with God and one another.  We have a Savior and Lord.  God promises us salvation and life eternal.

Christ is risen!  Christ is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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