It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…
I was reminded of these opening words of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and its pairs of extremes by the way that the month of April will unfold as a month of extremes for us in our Christian devotion. April begins with Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead (April 2), drawing the ire of religious authorities who decide that he must die. Then, the Jerusalem crowd’s Palm Sunday shouts of “Hosanna!” (April 9) quickly become “Crucify him!” as Holy Week builds toward Maundy Thursday (April 13, 6:30pm) and Good Friday (April 14, 6:30pm)--the painful extreme of the month, as the innocent Jesus is put to death on a cross.
But as quickly as the gravity of Jesus’ death hits us, we reach a joyous extreme--the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter morning (April 16 - breakfast at 7:30am, worship at 9:00). We rejoice in Jesus’ demonstrating that God is more powerful than anything...even death! After this, our celebration of the resurrection continues the rest of the month and beyond, as the Easter season lasts for seven Sundays. We will welcome several new members into the congregation at our Celebration of Discipleship on April 23, and round out the month with the beginning of a two-week sermon series explaining why we worship the way we do (April 30 & May 7).
So, we have a lot of extremes this month, but that is just a fact of Christian life. There is no Easter without Good Friday, no empty tomb without an occupied cross, no resurrection without death. Likewise, there is no joy without suffering--we must experience both to establish the contrast between the two. I love that our Lutheran heritage helps us remember and live out these truths, both in the shape of our worship and in our persistent faith in God's grace and forgiveness. Only God can make the cross--the ancient Roman instrument of death--into the symbol of new life for the whole world, pain and defeat walking side by side with renewal and victory.
God calls us to the cross to ponder the mystery of faith--that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. This is the mystery that is revealed to us, little by little, each day as we follow Jesus. And it is in this holy time of the year that the Holy Spirit most powerfully invites us to consider all that Jesus has done for us and for the world. Let us set out together on a journey toward the cross, trusting in our crucified Lord’s strength and looking always with abundant hope on the empty tomb, for Christ is risen!
Pastor Micah Garnett has been our Pastor since July 2016. He grew up in York, PA and graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. He enjoys worship, working with social services in Fulton County, writing hymns, and cycling.