Alleluia!! The Lord is Risen!
What amazing Good News that is for all of us! In a post on Facebook, the Rev. Sarah Hurlbert of St Paul’s, Jackson, shared the words to a song I haven’t thought about for a long time: “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.” This song, written by Bill and Gloria Gaither, is a favorite from my past and now I’ve been humming it ever since I read her post. The chorus continues:
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!
In these troubling times, I find comfort remembering that my hope is in Jesus and his resurrection, that even with all the daily reminders of the many evils present in our world, I can trust that God keeps God’s promises because the promise of our Savior’s resurrection was fulfilled.
I’ll admit that I am exhausted after Holy Week. I originally thought that I would wait until Monday to write this blog since the Weekly Connection won’t come out until Tuesday this week – after all, my personal adage seems to be “Don’t do today what you can put off until tomorrow.” But tomorrow has already begun to have commitments of its own. I also wondered what possible news I could share with you so I thought: “Well, I haven’t listened to our Presiding Bishop’s Easter message yet. Maybe Bishop Curry has something to say that I can build upon.” Well, surprise! Bishop Curry was singing “Because He Lives,” too!
Here is Bishop Curry’s Easter message:
Hello on Palm Sunday from St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem.
There is a passage in the 27th Chapter of Matthew’s gospel where religious leaders, political leaders come together once again after Jesus has been crucified and executed, after he had been buried in the tomb. Once again they come together to seal the tomb, to make sure not even a rumor of his resurrection will happen. And this is what some of them say:
Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may go and steal him away and tell the people he has been raised from the dead. And the last deception will be the worse than the first.
It is easy to overlook, and sometimes convenient to forget, that Jesus was executed, Jesus was crucified by an unholy alliance of religion, politics, and economic self-interest.
Politics represented in Pontius Pilate, governor of the Roman Empire, representative of that very empire and all of its power.
King Herod, who heard Jesus at one of the trials, representative of the Herodian and economic self-interest at the time.
The Chief Priest, representative of religious aristocracies who had a vested interest in the status quo.
These three powers came together – economic, religious and political – to crucify the one who taught love the lord your God, love your neighbor, and actually live that way.
The truth is the message of Jesus was unsettling to the world then as it is unsettling to the world now. And yet that very message is the only source of hope in life for the way of the cross, the way of unselfish living, the way of sacrificial living, seeking the good, the welfare of the other before one’s own unenlightened self-interest. That way of the cross is the way of love. That is the nature of love. And that way is the only hope for the entire human family.
The reality is the way of Jesus was a threat to the way that the world is, and hope for the way the world can and will be.
But on that third day after the crucifixion, when by the titanic power of God, by the power of the love of God, Jesus was raised from the dead. God sent a message and declared that death does not have the last word. Hatred does not have the last word. Violence does not have the last word. Bigotry does not have the last word. Sin, evil do not have the last word. The last word is God, and God is love.
On our pilgrimage here, we stopped and spent two days in Jordan. In Amman, Jordan, we were able to spend some sacred and blessed and painful time with Iraqi Christians. These are Christians, many of whom are Anglican, who have fled their country in Iraq because of war and violence and hatred and desecration. They have given up everything, refusing to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. And there in Jordan, with the help of the Anglican Church there and many other relief agencies, they are at least safe, hoping to find safe and permanent homes in other countries.
In the course of our conversations, and listening to them, at one point I found myself quoting a hymn, a song that many folk have heard around Easter, certainly in our country. And I didn’t expect a response. You probably know how it goes – it says,“because he lives,” referring to Jesus and his resurrection, “because he lives, I can face tomorrow.” When I quoted that song, those who have lost their homes, people who have lost everything except life itself, those who have lost loved ones, actually responded to the words of that song. When I said, “Because He lives I can face tomorrow.” When I said Jesus is alive, He’s been raised from the dead, I saw them lift up their heads and respond with the words “amen, hallelujah.”
My brothers and sisters, evil could not stop him. Death could not stop him. Violence could not stop him. For the love of God, the heart of God, the reality of God is stronger than anything else. And Jesus really rose from the dead on that first resurrection morning.
God love you. God bless you. And, may this Easter season be the first day of the rest of our lives.
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
You can watch a video of Bishop Curry’s message here.
We are witnesses of the Resurrection. As followers of Jesus, we know the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives to put the needs of others before our own, to speak out against injustice and oppression, to oppose evil in all its forms, to demonstrate love for all our neighbors. This is our mission and ministry to the world. One of the ways we do this as the Church is through the work of General Convention. As you know, General Convention is coming up in July. Did you also know that the dioceses are grouped together in Provinces? I ask because, just last week, a long-time Episcopalian told me that he didn’t know about provinces and the provincial synods that occur every three years. His question was a timely one since the synod for our province is this week in Chicago
For a little background: there are nine provinces in The Episcopal Church. Province V, the Province of the Midwest, covers Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and eastern Missouri, some 14 dioceses, 844 congregations and 220,000 lay people and clergy. The provinces are governed by an Executive Board and representatives from each diocese. Canon Jo Ann Hardy is our diocesan representative and Dr. Edie Wakevainen, from Clinton Township, has served as secretary for the Executive Board for the last three years. When it comes time for Synod, each diocese elects three delegates, two lay and one clergy, from the team of elected deputies for General Convention. This year, Lizzie Anderson, Felicity Thompson and I are going as your representatives.
So what do we do at Synod? According to the Province V website we:
- Worship together
- See old and meet new colleagues
- Learn about other ministries and programs
- Share our own ministry joys and challenges
- Experience Church in a wider context
- Explore possibilities of partnering with others to expand and strengthen ministries
- Be inspired by other leaders
- Hear from grant recipients
- Provide feedback about our next programs and conferences
I was fortunate to attend our Synod three years ago and benefited from the opportunity to learn, in a small group setting, about the mission and work of our neighboring dioceses. The networking experience was also helpful in preparing for our time at General Convention.
At General Convention in 2015, a resolution was presented that proposed the dissolution of the provincial structure. In response, a Task force was created with the following mandate:
General Convention 2015 Resolution “D011 Eliminate Provinces” enabled this Task Force and charged it with the task of studying the potential effects of eliminating the provinces. The enabling resolution also asked the Task Force to consider what structures might replace the provinces that would facilitate the support of the ministry and mission of The Episcopal Church. The Task Force was asked to consider geographical diversity, connections, constitution and overall costs in their work.
You can read the report of the Task Force here and find how they accomplished their work and what the results of their inquiry are. They have also prepared some resolutions that will be brought to General Convention for consideration which you can find in the report as well. Personally, I think the provincial structure has a lot of potential for networking and cooperation between dioceses. It can open lines of communication and provide learning opportunities for the benefit of all. I’m eager to participate in the discussion this weekend and will look forward to sharing what I’ve learned with you in up-coming blogs.
Here’s something you can do right now – pray. Pray for your delegates and diocesan representatives as we gather this weekend that we would have open minds and eagerness to sense the movement of God’s Spirit. Pray that we would see how we might serve the work of our Province to further the Jesus Movement in our area. Any of the meetings of our Church has the potential for us to come together with one mind that we might “reclaim Jesus” (see last week’s blog) as Bishop Curry and other faith leaders asked.
Then, when we’ve returned, check out the blog to find out about our weekend and, when you see us (or email us), ask about our experience in Chicago. Hold us accountable to bring back the story of Province and the work that our brothers and sisters are doing across these many dioceses.
Let us pray –
Gracious God, we thank you for the blessed assurance that Jesus lives and we can, indeed, face the future. May we be faithful followers of our Lord, committed to seeking and serving others, proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel, and working for the mission of your Church. Guide those who will meet together in Chicago this weekend for the work of your Church. Keep us open to your leading and direction; through Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council