You Are Not Alone


Christianity isn't about abstract hope; it is about embodied hope. 

The world is on edge right now. Troops muster, missiles fly; hate and violence cast a pall of fear at home and abroad. We feel a sense of unity with those who share our views on world events but more divided than ever from those who don't. New alliances are made but often at the high cost of once-cherished relationships that now lie in the dust. Economic anxieties for most of us are real and pressing.

How do we approach the Hallelujah's of Easter at such a time? Can we shine light into this darkness in a tangible way, or are we just there to remember that if someone shoots or bombs us we'll go to be with our Lord? What do we have to offer someone who walks through our church doors on Easter Sunday desperate for a word of hope?

To answer that, think about your own fears for a moment. When you face some uncertain threat, what is it that helps you calm down and focus? Even if you're staring down the worst life can offer, what gives you hope? For most of us the help we need is, first and foremost, knowing that we don't have to face whatever it is alone. That is why churches were packed the Sunday after Sept. 11, 2001 and why crowds gather in the streets at times of great tragedy and loss. We find comfort and strength in the presence of others, even if the worst has already come to pass.

As it happens, that is exactly the hope that Easter is meant to offer. This week we are naturally focused on the last few days of Jesus' life, culminating with the empty tomb of Easter morning. But in the Bible, those events are the dramatic conclusion to a much larger gospel message. Early in his ministry Jesus sent his disciples out to preach "the gospel" by saying, "As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.'" (Matt. 10:7). God has come to you.

That is the foundational promise of the Gospel. The Word has been made flesh. God is with us. Emmanuel. The events of Holy Week cap that off by showing that God's presence with us isn't over and never will be. Even death cannot stop it. That is the hope that Christianity offers, especially to those who feel that darkness of whatever kind is closing in around them: You are not alone.

But just telling people that a God they can't see or touch is with them in difficult times is not enough. Christianity isn't about abstract hope; it is about embodied hope. Jesus came in the flesh, physically gave the gift of human touch and healing, and physically suffered as those around him did and more. After his death and resurrection, keeping God's physical presence alive on this earth became our job (John 20:21).

The message of hope on Easter should never just come from the pulpit. It is the clarion call for those of us in the pews to be Christ for each other--to be sure none of us ever thinks that we are alone in this world. Yes, we might suffer, but we will not suffer alone. When we can no longer stand, someone will carry us. When we have no home, someone will shelter us. When we are hungry, someone will feed us. We are not alone; God continues to be present on this earth through God's people, and even death cannot take that away.

As the judgment scene in Matthew 25 points out, to fail to be there for each other--for every other, even the "least of these,"--is to fail at everything God has called us to be and do. And it is on Easter that we reaffirm our commitment to make the risen Christ a reality for those today who walk in the Valley of the Shadow. As he was to us, so we are to the world. The hope of Easter for a frightened world is not just a living Christ; it is a living Christ in us.

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