2018 is the bicentennial year for Illinois, and there will be undoubtedly be many celebrations this year that lift up key people and moments over 200 years of the Land of Lincoln. Unlike Illinois, though, my home state of Pennsylvania doesn’t have that one historical figure that looms as a giant over all the others. Pennsylvania’s state nickname is the “Keystone State,” named as such because of its importance to and central location in the original thirteen states and the colonial period that preceded the United States. I can’t say that my home state has been consistently noteworthy since then, but at least for a time, we were the keystone that held a fledgling nation together.
This April begins with a keystone of an entirely different sort as we begin the month with Easter Sunday. That keystone is the truth that is revealed in the Easter stories of all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and to which the rest of the New Testament writers testified--that Jesus is the crucified and risen messiah of God. The confession of Jesus Christ crucified and risen is the essential element of Christian faith, the building block on which the Holy Spirit has built the church over nearly two thousand years.
Given our present-day culture’s much higher engagement with Christmas than Easter, it may surprise you to discover that the church’s observance of Easter developed several centuries before our celebration of Christmas; however, that order of things makes more sense when considering the context of these two important stories of Jesus. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is what makes his birth noteworthy. Indeed, the confession of Jesus Christ crucified and risen is so central to the church’s mission that Easter is not just one day but rather an entire season in the church year. We devote fifty days each year to unpacking what Jesus’ resurrection means for us, beginning with Easter Sunday (Apr. 1 this year) and continuing all the way through the festival of Pentecost (May 20).
Jesus, the crucified and risen messiah of God, was not to be forgotten as were the flash-in-the-pan miracle men throughout history. No, people continue to gather in Jesus’ name. People continue to praise Jesus for his victory over sin and death. People continue to cling to the hope of Jesus’ resurrection and trust in God’s proven ability to create something new where the former things have passed away, even if that means doing something that seems impossible. The Easter good news that we share is simple and powerful: Jesus is the crucified one who died for us, and the risen one in whose resurrection we finally have assurance of God’s forgiveness and hope of eternal life.
Together, then, let us join the loud and joyful shout of faith that will resound throughout these fifty days of Easter: Christ is risen! Alleluia!
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.