The Lord is Risen – Now what shall we do?

The Georgia spring is finally here. I’m adding flower pictures to my Facebook page and watching my family struggle with allergies to all of the pollen in the air, on the cars and just about everywhere you look. But I do love the warm weather and I’m looking forward to long bicycle rides. 

Since our family moved to Georgia, part of me misses Easter in Virginia at Park View Mennonite Church. I get a bit nostalgic this time of the year.  On my first visit, as a Presbyterian, I was quite intimidated by the incredible singing at Park View. Just before a hymn, a director would call out directions–not to a choir, but to the congregation–announcing which verses were to be done in harmony, which ones were to be sung by the women, and then by the men. He or she would say if it was a round. And occasionally the folks were allowed to sing the tune in “God’s language” of German. 

As a visitor, I was blown away by their talent and sound leaving me afraid to sing at all because I was sure that I would be off key. I soon discovered that Mennonites come out of the womb crying in four-part harmony and though I felt I couldn’t contribute, it sure was beautiful to listen to. Every Easter we closed the service with the Hallelujah Chorus. I would lean over to my wife and whisper in her ear, “Mennonites start your engines!!!” and then it was hard not to get lost in the magnificent rendition by the 400-member congregation.

Pastor Phil Kniss is also keenly aware of the power of the singing on Easter morning.  Last year he began his sermon this way:

Alleluia! Christ is alive! Let Christians sing!

And we certainly have!

And the real roof-raising songs are still to come.

Christ is alive!

What joy to celebrate that singular truth this morning!

But you know,

one hardly even needs to believe the content of the Gospel story,

to get swept away by the beauty of this day,

to revel in the sounds of singing,

of trumpet, and bells, and organ pipes.

It could move an atheist to tears.

You don’t really have to believe it to appreciate it.

You don’t have to be a person of faith

to paint eggs, the universal symbol of God’s gift of life.

You don’t have to love Jesus, or believe God raised him from the dead

to go out on your porch and hang up a banner of butterflies,

the universal symbol of resurrection.

Almost anyone can get into the spirit of Easter,

can get emotionally invested in this season that celebrates life.

Anyone can catch the contagious joy of what we sing about today.

But what happens when we leave this place?

What happens when we go back into this severely distressed

and broken and wounded world,

and try to come to terms

with the death that’s still all around us?

One can only imagine what it was like for the disciples, family and friends of Jesus after the resurrection. They were euphoric, scared, doubtful, confused, overjoyed and probably every emotion you can identify. Death is overcome so what shall we do? Should we sit around and wait to be rescued? Is there something we could be doing to prepare?

Easter morning Christians can be a little over-focused on heaven to the neglect of life here on earth.

Sing praises and shout “Alleluia!” with all your heart, but when the song is over remember the prayer we were taught to pray which includes the line “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We pray for your will in my neighborhood and in your neighborhood and everywhere there is suffering and a hunger for Good News.

I recently reread the last chapters of all four Gospels to review any instructions Jesus left us on Easter morning. The writers have surprisingly harmonious teachings: “Feed my sheep. Go into all the world and preach the gospel. Go and make disciples of all nations.” Luke notes that after Jesus was carried up into heaven “the disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Without the resurrection, this would have been an inconceivable response to returning to the scene of the crime in a community that just days ago murdered their friend and their mentor.

A few moments ago, I received an e-mail from Bill Scott who heads up The Chattahoochee Valley Fuller Center Project.  He shared that LaShonda Benton and her 3-year-old son LaTae will be moving in to their new home this Easter weekend.  Struggling to get by and support her son’s special needs, LaShonda worked hard on rehabilitating an old house that was donated to The Fuller Center and then “flipped” or “resurrected” by the great team of volunteers in the Valley. In addition to the sweat equity hours on the house, LaShonda also worked hard at cleaning up her credit and will now own her home instead of paying rent for a substandard old mill house.

The Fuller Center for Housing is just one of many meaningful ministry opportunities to bring a song of joy and hope to a distressed and broken world. We say every house is a sermon of God’s love, not just in heaven, but right here on earth.  We see this at every house dedication in the tears of joy and the singing as new homeowners like LaShonda are handed a bible with the keys to their new home. Hope and dignity is restored, one house at a time by our volunteer disciples of Jesus.

As they say down here in Southwest Georgia, “That’s some mighty fine preaching!”

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