April 20, 2014

Easter: a hard and hopeful time

By Gwen Gustafson-Zook, minister of worship
SCRIPTURE: John 20:1-18 (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

“Life is like Easter: a hard and hopeful time.” – Obed Dashan, Jos, Nigeria

The notification beeped on my computer and I was pleased to see that my friend and former seminary classmate from Nigeria was checking in. He currently serves as the General Secretary for the Church of Christ in Nigeria/Nations headquartered in Jos, Nigeria. When I casually asked him how he was doing, he responded, “Life is like Easter: a hard and hopeful time.” He went on to report that in churches throughout Nigeria violence against Christians and those accused of promoting “westernized education” is rampant. Bomb blasts, the abduction of 200 school girls, the killing of people of faith – all of this in the past week – Holy Week. Obed is convinced that if those committing the atrocities would encounter the risen Christ, they, like Paul on the road to Damascus, would turn from their violent ways and become agents of positive change. As followers of the way of Jesus they would “influence the world with the gospel of peace.” So he prays for his enemies and consistently encourages Christians throughout Nigeria and beyond to live as people of peace in the face of horrific violence. “What gives you hope?” I asked. And he reminded me of names of his three children, all of whom were born around the time we studied together: Fwangmun: The Spirit Sustains, Nanshelmun: God walks with us and Pankyes: In God we find peace.

Sometimes amidst the eggs and the lilies and the baby chicks we turn away from the pain and violence that is the context for the resurrection. This year, I will make a commitment to not turn away. I will still sing the Easter songs with gusto. I will still relish the time with family and the faith community, even more so realizing how often I take them for granted. But I will also stand with my brothers and sisters around the world as they cling to the power of Love made known in the resurrection of Jesus Christ – and boldly and hope-fully proclaim: the violence and the hatred will not win! Christ has risen! Hallelujah!

Thank you for journeying with us through reflections and stories during this season of Lent. We will be back online with Advent reflections beginning in late November 2014. Until then, live in hope. The power of Love WILL prevail.

SCRIPTURE: John 20:1-18 (NRSV)

The Resurrection of Jesus

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

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Comments (15)

  1. Thank you for these devotions. I have found them very meaningful. I am so glad a friend told me about them.

    Lois Yoder Miller April 21, 2014 |
  2. Thanks for making Easter “real” for me this year. I will pray for Christ’s saving love to come to Nigeria.

    Julie Delp April 21, 2014 |
  3. Gwen, thank you for these words. The temptation to domesticate Easter is so great, to celebrate it as a costless victory that funds an easy life. Obed’s words stand as a “testimony to the otherwise” – you have offered them to us as a rich gift.

    David B Miller April 21, 2014 |
  4. Our journeying is our praying that God may take over our lives in Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord. May his peace reign.
    Thank you for your Lenten reflections that have helped me so much. I look forward to the Advent reflections. Mervyn Carapiet

    Mervyn Carapiet April 21, 2014 |
  5. Thank you all that did the Devotions it has always been a good way to start my Day
    God Bless You All!!!!

    Bob April 21, 2014 |
  6. Thanks for each Lenten devotional. They have been helpful, challenging
    and hopeful; all of these. Blessings of love to each person who contributed
    to these ‘lessons’.

    Ruby Bontrager April 21, 2014 |
  7. Thank you for all who have contributed to the Lenten Devotions this Lent which have been an excellent help to us. We look forward to the Advent Devotions, until then we will live in hope and the power of love will prevail. Jack & Ann Snowden

    Jack & Ann Snowden April 21, 2014 |
  8. I have cherished each and every devotion this Lent. It has helped keep me God-centered this Lent. Thank you.

    Susette Leonard April 21, 2014 |
  9. 321 8th ST NE
    Thank you for making this series of devotionals available. I enjoyed participating.

    Ev Bussema April 21, 2014 |
  10. Thank you Gwen, for sharing these thoughts. I like the way your friend described Easter. It’s both hopeful and hard.

    Sherri Michalovic April 21, 2014 |
  11. I appreciated the devotions so much and especially the last one by Gwen.

    Marcella Stalter April 21, 2014 |
  12. I have shared these Lenten devotions with my husband and our daughters in Seattle & Chicago. Thank you for a great gift during a time that has been especially poignant for our family.

    Ruth Carter April 21, 2014 |
  13. I always receive a blessing from these devotions. There is a good thought every day that speaks to me in a special way. Thank you for including me in this list. Have a blessed year!!

    Liz Lehman April 21, 2014 |
  14. Thank you for posting today, I will miss these daily readings in the weeks ahead and this year’s Lenten devotionals have been very meaningful for me. I have passed the word on to others and some I’ve kept for future reference. Bless you for this ministry to us.

    Pat Hershberger April 21, 2014 |
  15. What a powerful testimony from Nigeria in the midst of great persecution and suffering! May I/we never forget our brothers and sisters, their prayers for their enemies, and the hopeful message of Easter they have shared with us. Thanks, Gwen —- and all who shared devotions with us.

    Irene Bechler April 23, 2014 |