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By W. TERENCE ERBELE
On his second Sunday, the new pastor preached the exact same sermon. The congregation was a little puzzled but no one said anything. After the third Sunday of hearing the exact same sermon, some of the leaders asked for a meeting during the week.
“Why are you preaching the same sermon every Sunday?”
“I have not observed any changes in behavior.”
Tomorrow is the second Sunday of Easter. (The Easter Season lasts 50 days.) The proclamation is the same: Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God, died and Christ rose from the dead, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and lives forever. Actually, that is the assertion we make every week. Why? Everything hinges on this fact. He caught them.
Far too many of us are trapped between Good Friday and Easter. What was abnormal for Jesus is our norm. We think of life as that period of suffering between the pangs of birth and the throes of death. Mortality happens when the spirit leaves the body. Our spirits leave us and we are caught existing as mere shells going through the day-to-day motions. We get discouraged and lose hope. In essence, we die and we tend to stay there. We languish between demise and re-birth.
We place our hopes in accumulating possessions only to realize you cannot take it with you. We make great plans only to experience the pain of broken plans. The thousands of “what if” questions prowl our minds and haunt us like ghosts in a cellar. Dreams so quickly become nightmares. In other situations, our friends leave us and we find ourselves in loneliness. The aging process forces us to come to terms with reality. Our bodies and minds will ultimately let us down in beauty — as culture defines it — and in capability as we await (to use Dave Kiffer’s expression) our expiration date.
We understand that you cannot have Easter without Good Friday. We experience the Good Fridays of our spirits departing. For reasons, unclear even to ourselves, we crave the new, but insist on relishing our old ways, habits, vices and sins. We chose to waste away, to decompose, in tombs of darkness and quiet desperation.
No child in his right mind will attempt to answer the impossible question of the irate parent, “Why did you go and do a thing like that?” (It would be interesting to see what would happen if the child replied, “It is the sin nature I inherited from you.”) The other impossible question is “How many times have I told you?”
How many times have or should we repeat? Who cares? The Good News is there to be celebrated continually. The message has been, is and always will be the same. It is the Gospel that Christ is risen and, because Jesus lives and reigns eternally, we can live also, in this life as well as the one to come.
The repeated declaration is the promise of abundant life: A life of joy, peace, forgiveness, faith, courage, victory, love and wisdom. Yes, there is always — always — hope, even in life’s darkest hour. As Ephesians 3:20 reminds us, God is able to do exceedingly abundantly far beyond all that we can ask or, imagine. God’s grace reaches infinitely beyond our highest prayers, greatest hopes or wildest dreams according to his power that is at work within us.
God proved it by Jesus “living” through that day known by several names: Black Saturday, Easter Eve or Holy Saturday.
May the Spirit of God quicken your soul to life as you hear again the message of Easter.
The Rev. W. Terence Erbele is a pastor of United Methodist Church.
Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.