Yesterday I had the blessing of being with my family on one of our little one’s – Ella’s – fourth birthday. With the events of today in CT, I was once again reminded not to have any regrets for missing work to be with family.
My heart has been aching since I heard the news of 20 children and 8 adults whose lives were lost in a small New England town this morning. Tragic is an understatement. Everyone has been taken off guard. It was at an elementary school. An elementary school!!!
I’ve struggled through anger and tears this afternoon. I cannot imagine, as my sister-in-law articulated on Facebook, how those family members will feel tonight as they sit around their living room looking at presents under a Christmas tree (or hidden in a closet) marked for their child who did not come home today from school.
This is yet another reminder of the death present in our world and the importance of our mission as followers of Jesus to live sent with His presence. Leaders, including today, cry out again that these things happen because “they keep God out of our school.” What bologna! God won’t be out of our schools until someone removes the Holy Spirit from those who follow Him as they go there!
We are not asked by God to legislate righteousness. We are not persuading and proselytizing for an alternative religion here. We have been loved by the God who came near compelling us to go near with His love to those who have yet to believe beyond the death and selfishness of the here and now. Our mission is not so trite as only to be about moralism in school or making a better culture. It has all to do with displaying the message of resurrection life so that hope can be found and dead can be made new again.
As Peterson so eloquently and appropriately wrote:
The church is a colony of resurrection in the country of death.
Jesus. You wept over the effect of death. Thank You, as the One who made us, for having a heart of grace for us when we, as the ones who were made, chose to eat of the tree that opened our minds and hearts to all we could know about what we are so beautifully as well as horrifically capable of. Thank You for resurrection. Thank You for hope. Amen.
Hope this is a special Good Friday for you as you remember the cross today.
Here is an “imagine if” story for you this week. It has actually happened in various ways over the last eight years of @WestpointChurch, but let me frame it this way as an “imagine if” just to make it challenging and accessible for us.
Imagine the chance these next few days to dialogue with someone about Easter. Probably someone with whom you have been a friend for some time. They know you care about them. They know you celebrate for more than bunnies, chocolate, and eggs, but they know you aren’t some fanatic who doesn’t participate in a fun egg hunt and enjoy a Reese’s egg. However, they may not know exactly why Easter is meaningful to you. In other words, they may not know why resurrection really matters to you.
Imagine asking them this question:
>> have I ever told you why Easter means so much to me?
Maybe you have your own variation of that question. But the topic turns there. And the dialogue includes the significance of resurrection, the hope of life again, the lack of condemnation for the selfish choices that steal life because of the love of the One who gave His life yet is still alive.
These are more than religious concepts.
What would you share with someone if you had the chance to tell them the answer to that above question? Who might you ask that question to and have that dialogue with? Are you willing to pray for that chance to come in the next three days?
This could be the story of your weekend. And the story of a friend whom you have loved believing they are forever loved by the God who came near and died and rose again.
I pray it will be.
For the @WestpointChurch family, there are three specific chances to gather this Friday and Sunday I wanted to highlight. Below those three is a simple challenge for us as we are cultivating daily for Easter. Hope you will cultivate.
:: Good Friday at noon with the Church of West Orange at the Jesse Brock Community Center across from Dillard Elementary School.
:: Good Friday evening at 7:00 with Kensington Church at West Orange High School auditorium. This is going to be a very artistic and engaging expression of the story of the cross that we get to enjoy with a partnering church family.
:: Easter Sunday morning at 10:00 at Whispering Oak Elementary School (where we normally gather). Who will you invite to come with you to celebrate the resurrection on this special day?
Try to make it to two of these three if you can. And please pray about who God might want you to invite to come with you, someone with whom you have been walking and loving or someone who is a new friend or neighbor.
Don’t miss this chance to not just show the Gospel but share it, as well.