I was mildly horrified to read an article in Sunday’s State-Journal Register that interviewed several Springfield-area pastors about the message of hope that is part of the Easter message. My horror was at the utter lack of clarity expressed as to what the source of our hope is: the Easter Gospel, Christ risen from the dead. Instead the pastors were quoted as expressing Good Friday and Easter as some sort of therapeutic release. For example (I’ve removed names, since that’s not my aim here):
“Ultimately, for every sad Friday, there is a glorious Sunday morning,” said [a pastor], referring to Easter, which most Christians celebrate today. “Whatever your Good Friday is — financial problems or a divorce — if you hold on, your Sunday morning is coming.
“But you have to continue on through (those tribulations) to get there.”
This is appealing in a certain way, is it not? After all, we have struggles and trials in our lives. We all want hope in the midst of the lows of our lives. And, certainly, Christ gives us hope. But it is not the hope of Scarlett O’Hara, that “tomorrow is another day.” Rather, our hope is that death is defeated, that Sin is ended, that our scarlet-stained-by-sin selves are washed white by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Our hope is that even while we bear these trials, we know that all of it is just a raging against us by sin, death, and the devil, and that in Christ we are preserved for a new, eternal life; a life that He, being the first-fruits, already lives in and promises we also will fully live in, come the Last Day.
Let me be clear: I don’t write this to put down these people quoted. For the sake of best construction, perhaps they were led to say these things by certain leading questions; or perhaps the journalist who wrote the article pulled quotes which avoided the true confession of Jesus Christ. However, we must be clear as to what the Christian message is, what Christian hope is, and what is not. Also I want to you to rejoice in what you have: here in the Lutheran church we have a clear confession of the Gospel. It’s all about Jesus Christ, dying and rising for you.
On Easter Sunday, at the sunrise service, we heard clearly from St. Paul what the true Easter Gospel is. Please let me leave you with that text:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-10)