LEaster is the oldest festival of the Christian Church. As you are aware, Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on the third day after his crucifixion. In the early Church, new converts sat in vigil during the night before Easter. Then they were baptized and received their first Holy Communion on Easter Day. According to tradition, the name Easter was derived from the Saxon spring goddess, “Eostre.” As in the case of Christmas, the Christian observance of Easter took the place of an existing pagan ritual.
 
The celebration of Easter is forever linked to the Jewish Passover. Since Jesus’ Last Supper and crucifixion occurred during the feast of the Passover, Christ is seen as the Paschal lamb, the new sacrifice. In 325 AD the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. From that point forward, the date of Easter depended on the ecclesiastical approximation of March 21 for the vernal equinox. This means the date for Easter always falls between March 21 and April 25.
 
Easter Lilies are often used to decorate for Easter. They have traditionally been used in Christian art connected to Mary, the mother of Jesus. She has often been pictured with the angel Gabriel and Gabriel is coming to her with a spray of lilies in his hand to announce that she will be the mother of the Messiah. It is also a sign of the resurrection. Lilies, like other flowers that come from bulbs seemingly die away then return with new life each year. Because they are white, they signify the pure new life that comes through the resurrection of Jesus.
 
If we can say that any one aspect of the Christian faith is more important than any other, the resurrection is it. Without faith that Jesus rose from the dead there would be no Christianity. It was not the ethical teachings of Jesus, or his noble death, that gave birth to the Christian church and made it spread. It was the news of his resurrection. It was only because the first Christians believed that Christ was risen that they looked back to ask about the meaning of his birth life and death. As Paul said to the Corinthians “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” The earliest confession summarizing the faith of the first Christians was Jesus is Lord, a title conferred on him because of his resurrection.
 
Sometimes the church has made the cross the center of its faith. This is not wrong, the risen triumphant Lord is none other than the suffering Servant who gave himself for us. But the cross is an appropriate symbol for the Christian faith only if it is an empty cross. The foundation and center of the Christian faith is not death but life; not tragedy but victory beyond tragedy; not a gloomy world denying fascination with a dead sacrifice, but a triumphant world challenging faith in a living lord; not a passive breast beating moaning about how sinful the world is, but an active, joyful moving out of sinfulness to obedient fellowship with him. Christ is risen! That is where the Christian faith begins, and for Christians it is the one event in history which gives meaning to all history, including our own.
 
In Christ’s Service,
Rev. Harry Brown
 

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A Matter of the Heart

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Luke 12:34

Money and our attitude toward possessions are, at root, a spiritual issue. The ways we use money reveal our ultimate values and allegiances. Jesus put it very succinctly, you can’t serve both God and money. In short, our faith needs to shape and reshape what psychologists sometimes call “our world view”. Our world view is a set of fundamental beliefs that determine our values, actions, and decisions. Our world view determines everything from our generosity to our sexual morals, and political persuasions.

Mike Slaughter, in his book

Money Matters,

points out that the most prevalent world view among church attendees is soft secular. People with a soft secular world view believe in God, but they place their trust in and draw their values from secular culture. They profess faith in Christ, but trust their abilities, financial resources, and material possessions to provide meaning and security rather than trusting God’s promise to provide. It is difficult for soft secular people to make significant time or financial commitments to the church. They believe in God, but God is not their first priority. They live comfortably in two spheres, the sacred and the secular, but when pressed for time their default almost always goes to the secular. They bring Jesus into their world view instead of being converted into His.

Many, especially in my generation, have been taught to believe you can have it all. We are a generation of conspicuous consumption. We were the hippies of the sixties and seventies and the yuppies of the eighties. In an age of diminishing resources, we drove massive SUV’s and trucks that were designed for the rigors of mountain terrain even though we never went off road. We’ve bought things we couldn’t afford and created debt encumbered lifestyles. In the process, we’ve raised kids who are focused on individual experience who think it’s true if it works for me.

Jesus addresses such world views in the story of a wealthy entrepreneur who seeks meaning from money. A rich man had a fertile farm that produces fine crops. He said to himself, “what shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.” Then he said, “this is what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and there I will store my surplus grain and I’ll say to myself you have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink, and be merry.” (Luke 12:16-19)

You know what happened next. The man turned around and died. He missed life which is what happens when we focus on money. Life is found in our ability to make a lasting contribution to the redemptive work of God in the world. The only thing that lives beyond us is what we do for others in Jesus’ name. True abundance is found in the freedom that comes from contributing to the well-being of another human being. Jesus put it this way, “it is more blessed to give than to receive”. Giving is the ultimate expression of love for God and the means through which we discover meaning and purpose. We are never closer to God than when we are serving the needs of people.

In Christ’s Service

Rev. Harry Brown