Dear friends in Christ:

I believe with every fiber of my being that it is impossible to truly celebrate Easter as a Christian without having walked through the other services of Holy Week on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  Check out the Holy Week/Easter schedule on the next page.

These services unfold the terrible story of Jesus’ betrayal by one of His own, His being humiliated and tortured, suffering and dying on the cross, and His body being buried at the beginning of a Sabbath Day.  Easter Sunday is the Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord. But without His death there is no resurrection.

It is important to our identities as believers to share this journey of Jesus on the days we call Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. If we are truly His disciples (followers) of Jesus the Good Shepherd, then we must follow Him the whole way. A popular traditional hymn by James Montgomery invites us to do this.

Go to dark Gethsemane, all who feel the tempter’s pow’r;

Your Redeemer’s conflict see, watch with Him one bitter hour.

Turn not from His griefs away, Learn from Jesus Christ to pray.”

When the body of Jesus was laid in that new tomb at the end of that horrible day we ironically call “Good Friday” all was felt to be lost. No one could conceive that He would die as He did, let alone be raised from such indignation, shame, and stone cold death.

But after keeping that Sabbath Day (sundown Friday to sundown on Saturday) several women disciples rose early to finish the burial process. What was it that drove them to leave the comfort of their beds that first Easter morning, and walk to the tomb where they believed body of Jesus lay? Perhaps it was a sense of duty. Perhaps it was a sense of devotion to the Jesus they had known. Perhaps, as with so many things, it was just what women do because it is their socially assigned task. Perhaps they had more grieving to do. Perhaps it was all those things.

What happens next makes everything new! The stone that covered the entrance now is rolled away. The tomb is now empty. Suddenly there are two men who gleam like lightening (remember the transfiguration?). They must have been startled out of their minds. One of them asks, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen.”

Like those women who came to the tomb we will greet one another with those words: “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” come Easter morning as we share the good news that God’s love has triumphed over the human capacity for hate, that in Christ life has triumphed over the power death, that forgiveness wins out over the guilt of our sins, and that for those who believe, all is never ever lost. In the words of James Montgomery’s hymn, on Easter Sunday we too

Early hasten to the tomb where they laid His breathless clay

All is solitude and gloom. Who has taken Him away?

Christ is risen. He meets our eyes. Savior, teach us so to Rise.

Blessed Easter to you and yours!

Pastor Joe Hughes

217-898-9063 voice & text

Email:  j_w_hughes@hotmail.com