As the world continues to open up following the pandemic and things return to “normal,” we have an opportunity to reflect on what normal will mean following the losses, upheavals, and disturbances of the long months of mitigations and distancing. Perhaps the Christian message can offer some advice for moving forward with hope and joy.
As Christians, every time we nourish someone, not only with our abundant material possessions, but with our love and listening hearts, the story of Jesus is told. Every time we stand with someone in their worst hour, when all seems lost or dead, the story of Jesus is told. Every time we hold out in hope, we insist that death is not the end, that every sin can be forgiven, and we can do all things in him who strengthens us, the story of Jesus is told. The Christian is challenged to move forward, having allowed the message of Jesus to get so deeply in us, that others hear the story of Jesus through us. And so, each Christian must realize: it has to come from me.
Too often we believe that God will be at work in us or call us when we are a bit more together, less neurotic, holier, less sinful, with more time and energy. Today is the Word proclaimed; the Word that, no matter how much you are not listening to your life, perks you up and challenges you to renew your commitment. Whose life might be saved, who has lost his or her way, whose eyes might light up, because today, you renewed your commitment to receive and reflect on this Word?
The hope that we bear, the reason we venerate the cross, and wear it as a badge of honor – could be summed up in the words of the Presbyterian preacher Frederick Buechner: “Resurrection means the worst thing is never the last thing.” The worst thing is never the last thing. Our journeys do not end at the bottom. Every sorrow, every anger, every fear, every “rock bottom” day we have, we can lay on the cross with our flowers and our prayers and our hearts and know that God has something in store for us beyond “rock bottom.” The hatred and fear and anger and greed and death that humankind laid on Jesus was not the last word for him, and because of him it will not be the last word for us.
Ultimately as Christians we claim Jesus is Risen. Our world can be cynical, unforgiving, materialistic. There is much that divides us. But those who follow Jesus and live his story say to the world: love and forgiveness are the greatest powers. Every person’s life has value, God is present in the suffering, and death is not the end. This is what it means to take the risk in emptying ourselves, so that might take up the mission of hope. As the summer progresses, in the midst of the sweet corn and the watermelon, may we Christians do what we can to show that Christ is alive and at work in the world around us.