Monday, April 09, 2012

The Day After Easter...So What?

A friend of mine noted that Christians who only celebrate their faith on Easter Sunday do not have a faith that's to be taken seriously.  (A severe paraphrase of my friend's words, but it catches the idea.) 

I agree.

I might enlarge the thought that if one's faith is only celebrated & talked about on Easter Sunday and on Christmas Day, that's not really a faith to be taken seriously.

The question to ponder is this: What difference does Easter make on the day after Easter?  Does Easter make a difference at all on the day after Easter?

If the difference is "I'm rested up from the extra day off from work" or "I gotta hit the treadmill because I ate too much yesterday" or "Whew! an 8-month break until the next significant holiday..." then I think we've missed the big E on the eye chart.

But PLEASE don't take my word for it.  Consider:  "Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."  (1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV)

What's the "therefore" there for?  What does it reference?  It references 57 verses immediately preceding that teach the foundational importance of the resurrection of Jesus to the entirety of the Christian faith.

Note what Paul does NOT say is based on the reality of the resurrection:
--"relax! It's all good."
--"You worked hard to pull off your church's Easter weekend activities; do it again next year & take it easy until then.,"
--"Knowing that in the Lord you never need to lift a finger."

Instead, "be always abounding in the work of the Lord"..."knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."  In other words, always be laboring in the Lord's work.  And as you work, know--be certain--that it's not in vain.

67 years ago today, in the woods of northern Europe, one of my heroes' faith became sight.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged at Flossenburg prison.  Bonhoeffer was many things, but he was first & foremost a pastor.  That Sunday morning, April 9, 1945, he led a worship service for some fellow prisoners.  His two texts: Isaiah 53:5 ("By His stripes we are healed!") and 1 Peter 1:3 ("Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!")  Other prisoners hoped he would lead a second service, but a date with the gallows prevented it.

He was summoned.  He pulled aside a fellow prisoner & said this: "This is the end. For me, the beginning of life." 

Years earlier, he had preached this: "No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward joyfully to being released from bodily existence...which of us knows how near he or she may already be to the goal?  That life only really begins when it ends here on earth, that all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up...Why are we so afraid when we think about death?...Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God's Word...Death is grace...Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle, it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace...Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith..."

On April 9, 1945, after years of training pastors & doing significant ministry in Hitler's Nazi regime under threat of imprisonment & death, Bonhoeffer reached the end of his earthly pilgrimage.

He knelt on the floor and prayed fervently.  Outside, he prayed again & then climbed to the gallows, "brave and composed."  According to the camp Doctor at the Nazi camp where Bonhoeffer was executed, "In the almost 50 years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God."

That April 9 was the day after Easter.  So is this April 9.

Again the question: So What?  What difference does what you celebrated yesterday make this day?  And the next day?  And the next?

Be steadfast...always abounding in the work of the Lord, for truly, it is not in vain!

With hope,

p.s. - I commend to you Eric Metaxas' excellent biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

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