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At noon on Monday I looked out the front door of our house the sun was shining brightly and there wasn’t a speck of snow to be seen. At 7:00 p.m. that evening there was heavy wet snow covering everything – perhaps more snow than we’ve seen in Regina all winter. It happened so fast.
That’s the way the gospel accounts describe Easter. One moment Jesus was gone. He had died on the cross and was buried. Then there was the empty tomb.
There has been endless debate on what happened. Did Jesus physically rise from the tomb, his body re-animated and alive like before? Or is this a way of describing how the disciples felt after the crucifixion and burial – that it was as if Jesus was still with them.
I rather like the latter explanation – it opens for me the possibility that I can experience the person of Jesus in my life two thousand years later. When I strive to follow his teachings to love one another as he loved; and, to include the least, the last and the lost in the circle, I know his presence with me and with all of us. This makes the resurrection more than just a magic trick in which God pulls Jesus instead of a rabbit out of a hat.
In my role as Conference President I attended the meeting of the General Council in Corner Brook and I have been visiting our Presbyteries throughout the year.
In these places I have seen and heard expressed great love for our church. Yet, I have also seen tired people and heard of the difficulty in getting people to take on responsibility for the tasks of the church.
We see this in congregations that have made the difficult decision of disbanding because the only people left are getting older and can no longer take on the responsibility of keeping the church alive where they are.
So where is the good news in this? Where is resurrection?
A few weeks ago, when Carolyn and I were in the church where we worship, I watched the children leave the sanctuary after “Children’s Time.” They didn’t walk out calmly – they ran with great exuberance on their way to a time of singing and then their church school classes.
I commented to someone that morning that it might be dangerous to be in the aisle at that time such was the enthusiasm of the children. This is what we all want – children who are excited about church (and who grow up to be adults excited about church); children and adults enlivened by the gospel message of love and hope that Jesus taught and that the church continues to proclaim. In this is resurrection. In this hope is to be found.
Jesus said that a little child shall lead us. In the obvious delight of those children at being in church that morning (and every other Sunday morning that I have seen them), I saw hope for the future and my day was made joyous.
I know that many have been saying for a long time that we need to keep our young people in church. If we only had a formula for doing that! Still, it will be some of the children I saw racing down the aisle to go to singing and classes and others like them from across the country who will be the leadership of the church in years ahead. In many ways they are already leading us.
This may be a church unlike the one in which I grew up – and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, it will still be the church; and, by the grace of God the good news of Jesus Christ will still be proclaimed.
The promise remains: Easter – every Easter – is a time of true resurrection for each of us and for all of us as a part of The United Church of Canada and the whole of the Church of Jesus Christ.
President, Saskatchewan Conference