Rev. Peter A. Olsen
Rev. Rachel M. Zarnke
From the Pastor's Desk
As I write this piece, the world is in lock down mode. Our Holy Week observances were marred by the attacks in Brussels. Our Easter joy was dampened by the murder of seventy-two Christians celebrating in a Pakistani Park. Threats of further violence have us all on edge. The growing presence of heavily armed police and military bring a strange mixture of comfort and anxiety. It is reassuring to know that they are there to protect us, but disturbing to think that we should need such protection. These developments only reinforce our natural instinct toward fear; our reflexive tendency to hunker down, wall off our borders, arm ourselves to the teeth and stay off the streets.
On the first Easter Sunday, Jesus' disciples were also in lock down mode. They were afraid and their fear was not unfounded. Rome needed little encouragement to crucify people they suspected might be trouble makers. To be known as an associate of Jesus, the one recently crucified as a messianic pretender, was more than enough reason for Rome to nail yet another a man to the cross. Small wonder, then, that we find the disciples holed up behind locked doors. They were taking reasonable precautions for their own safety.
The disciples' ought to have known, however, that their locks and chains could no more keep Jesus out of their midst than death could hold him in the grave. Jesus is no respecter of boundaries. He ventured into the homes of notorious outlaws, dinned with both religious dignitaries and people with bad reputations. He sat himself down in the temple to teach where none but learned teachers were permitted. Not surprisingly, he makes short work of the disciples' defense mechanisms. Jesus loves his disciples too much to allow them to spend the rest of their lives in fear behind locked doors. He loves his world too much to allow God's self-giving love expressed on the cross to remain a secret.
After greeting his disciples, Jesus arms them with his Spirit and sends them out. "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." The disciples are called out from behind locked doors to bear witness in the streets to Jesus' resurrection. Nothing outside has changed. The religious institutions that persecuted Jesus and the government that put him to death are still firmly entrenched. Then, as now, the world was a dangerous place. You can get hurt out there. But it was and is the world God loved; the world to which God sent God's Son; the world God loves enough to bleed and die for. Disciples of Jesus must love the world no less than Jesus loves it and be prepared to suffer no less than the cross Jesus bore. Such perfect love "casts out all fear."
This Easter season Jesus again enters into our locked down existence. He calls us to come out of hiding; to move beyond all that we look to for security; to live joyfully and freely by faith rather than slavishly, driven by fear. Jesus urges us to be motivated by God's promises rather than paralyzed by our worries over what might happen to us. To believe in Jesus' resurrection is to live boldly, freely and joyfully in the midst of a dangerous and violent world knowing that nothing, neither terrorism, poverty, sickness, nor even death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The Lord is risen! The locks and chains have fallen from the door! So go now in peace and serve the Lord!
A blessed Easter to all!