Published in Connections Magazine (March/April 2014)
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faith and family
by Marcus J. Carlson
As a Lutheran pastor, I am constantly thankful for the time of confession during our worship services. It is critical to our spiritual health and our theological understanding of sin and grace. It is also necessary for creating a heart posture in worship and in life that will draw us into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
As a leader, I recognize one of the most important and difficult aspects of leadership is modeling. Now I have a confession to share. At one point in my ministry career, I found myself dreading Easter. I was serving a church where I was responsible for the 6 a.m. service. It was always cold and dark, and snowed more often than not. It was tiring, because it was not the only service I had responsibility for that day. One year, I had to preach two services on Easter Sunday with bruised ribs. I think it was that year I made the now infamous comment to my good college friend, “I love Jesus and Easter, but do we have to celebrate the resurrection every year?” I confess that this comment was neither pastoral nor theologically sound.
Most of us enjoy celebrating the resurrection. We love the ending of this story. Jesus wins. He conquers death and the miraculous happens. I suspect I am not the only one to miss the power and meaning of Easter and the resurrection. Many faithful Christians lose sight of the power of the resurrection, and many others forget the significance of the cross. After all, without the death of Jesus on the cross, Easter is not meaningful. The resurrection of Jesus is more than a good story, a holiday to celebrate or proof of the Christian faith. The resurrection changed everything, and should continue to transform every aspect of our lives, families, churches, communities and world. This is one of the many reasons it is critical we embrace Easter every year.
The reality is we need to embrace Easter every year, every week, and each and every day. The resurrection means God has, can and will continue to make all things new. Jesus was resurrected from the dead after great suffering. The truth is we all experience suffering and death in our lives. Our suffering and death is not the same as what Jesus experienced, but it is real, painful and difficult. It is also an
opportunity. That is the great news about Easter and the resurrection: everything we experience in life—especially death and suffering—is an opportunity for resurrection, for new life.
We all have things in our lives, our families and our churches in need of resurrection. I can think of several things in my life that need resurrection, especially my post-Christmas relationship with my scale! As a husband, I recognize there are always things in my marriage that need resurrection. Being a father has taught me much about resurrection. I am an imperfect parent and my children, besides being pastorʼs kids, are also less than perfect. Like their parents, they have pain, weaknesses, shortcomings and sin. I sometimes facetiously remark that they inherited all of these things from their mother, so I am off the hook! All kidding aside, it is imperative we as followers of Jesus believe in and have confidence in the resurrection. Our call is to trust God—He can bring resurrection and new life to anything!
What if we chose to live with confidence in the resurrection and the promise that God can make all things new? What would change about our spiritual lives? Our outlook? What would be different about our work, our play and our service to others? So often, even though we know the whole story of Jesus, we act as if the story ended on the cross and we are on our own. We fail to believe the weaknesses, imperfections, sin, challenges, brokenness and suffering in our lives can be redeemed and made new. We often hope and pray God will intervene, but act as if that is not likely and live as if we are on our own.
Recently, one of our children struggled with something that was hard for us to watch. Those who are parents can resonate with this situation. As parents, we not only want to “fix it” for our kids, but we want to protect them and take away their pain. It is difficult to watch those we love suffer. I found myself getting caught up in the wrong things in this instance. In addition to being focused on solving the issue and get- ting rid of the pain, I was focused on other things, such as blame, prevention, protection and fear. While these things are not necessarily bad, they are not a part of the resurrection story. In this one small instance I found myself forgetting one of the most important truths of the Christian faith: God has and can make all things new! The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is more than a great story, a historical event or a holiday; it is a transforming truth for our lives.
If I choose to live confidently in the resurrection, my life, family, church and those I love and encounter will experience radical transformation. The abundant life promised us in the Gospel of John is the resurrection life.
The truth is we all have things in our lives we wish would be different. Whether we face simple or profound suffer- ing, or our challenges are small or large, we all have things that need resurrection. Our children and families need more than the knowledge and celebration of Easter; they need the resurrection life. Believing that God can make all things new is certainly a great challenge; trusting with confidence that God will bring resurrection is an even greater challenge. Are we pointing our children and youth to the resurrection life? Is the story of Jesus more than a nice story providing us insurance for the afterlife? Is our relationship with God and participation in the community of faith a spectator sport, or is there more to our faith?
I am thankful for Easter. Itʼs the yearly reminder that the resurrection can come to us in each and every moment of our lives. It’s a reminder to me as a follower of Jesus that God can make all things new in my life. It’s a reminder to me as a husband and father that God has great things in store for my family. The greatest gift I can offer my children is an unwavering commitment to point them not only to Jesus and the story of Easter, but also to the powerful, transforming resurrection life.
Happy Easter. He is Risen!