Good Friday, April 18, 2014
Dear Linwood Family and Friends,
Grace and peace to each of you.
Jan and I are in the Detroit area helping Jan’s mom transition from her home the past thirty years (a three story condo) to an Senior Independent Living Facility. It has been a busy, tiring, challenging, and rewarding time. As a result, this has not been for me a “normal” Holy Week. Traditionally, I have sought to slow down, to quiet my soul, and to enter into Christ’s journey through the week – from the Palm Sunday parade, to the confrontations at the temple, to the Passover meal, to the cross, to the tomb, and then to the greatest surprise ending of all time – the resurrection! This year Holy Week has a very different pace and pattern.
In the midst of all the busyness and craziness of this time, we did go to the Good Friday service at noon today. It was a rich and needed time. I can’t remember how many times I have said to folks, “You can’t have a resurrection without a death!” In other words, how can you truly celebrate the victory of Easter unless you have also stood by the cross? I trust that many of you this day (or evening) have also stood by the cross.
There are only a few moments when I having a burning desire to once again be the pastor of a year around church – Christmas Eve and Easter. For instance, consider Easter. On the one hand there is an incredible eagerness and excitement to proclaim “He is alive!” At the same time there is this overwhelming sense of inadequacy. Who am I to be entrusted with the greatest news of all time! How can I possibly do justice to what has happened? How can I encourage people to believe something that we all know is not possible – a dead man coming back to life? And yet, I KNOW that the impossible is true! How do you convince people that truth is greater than possibility?
My old Covenant Group of pastors is connected by email. This prayer for pastors at Easter has been passed along to the group. I have already forwarded it to my successor at Bay Presbyterian. However, I am also passing it to along to you, asking that you pray for your pastor as he or she prepares to declare the victory of Easter.
A prayer for pastors on Easter:
Dear Lord, I pray for all the pastors today
Who will feel enormous pressure to have their sermon
Match the greatness of the subject
And will surely feel they have failed.
(I pray even more for those who think they have succeeded.”
Help them to know that it is enough
Simply and faithfully to tell the story
Of women in dawn hush …
Of men running half-believing …
Of rolled stones and folded grave-clothes …
Of a supposed gardener saying the name of a crying woman …
Of sad walkers encountering a stranger on the road home …
Of an empty tomb and overflowing hearts.
Give them the wisdom to know that sincere humility and awe
Surpass all homiletic flourish
On this day of mysterious hope beyond all words.
Make them less conscious of their responsibility to preach,
And more confident of the Risen Christ
Whose presence trumps all efforts to proclaim it.
Considering all the Easter choirs who will sing beautifully, and those who won’t,
And all the Easter prayers that will soar in faith, and those that will stumble and flounder,
And all the Easter attendance numbers and offering numbers that will exceed expectations
And those that will disappoint …
I pray they all will be surpassed by the simple joy
Of women and men standing in the presence of women and men,
Daring to proclaim and echo the good news;
Risen indeed! Alleluia!
For death is not the last word.
Violence is not the last word.
Hate is not the last word.
Money is not the last word.
Intimidation is not the last word.
Political power is not the last word.
Condemnation is not the last word.
Betrayal and failure are not the last word.
No, each of them are left like rags in a tomb,
And from that tomb,
Help the preachers feel it,
And if they don’t feel it, help them
Preach it anyway, allowing themselves
To be the receivers as well as the bearers of the Easter
May the risen Christ make Himself known to you in a wonderful and special way this Easter. May His victory also be your victory. Because He lives, we too shall live.
Yours in Christ
Hu Auburn, Linwood Park Pastor