Tag Archives: Easter

Spring is here

flowers

“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” Martin Luther

In this world, nothing lasts forever: fortunes fade or disappear, relationships end or move on, opportunities pass, and people sadly die. Therefore, change is often feared and the unknown suspected. If not in our words, our actions often reveal our true thoughts about this “reality.” We tend to make choices that are meant to protect ourselves from the world. Often based on fears and the perception of or needs or wants, they end up being choices that can hurt ourselves and others rather than bless. They can unintentionally, slowly separate us from God, others, and the abiding joy Christ promised for our present.

In contrast, spring reminds us that our struggles won’t last forever. Against stacked odds, we become witnesses to new life brought forth and the dead resurrected all around us. Birds sing, and flowers bloom. Time and again, great prophets like Isaiah shared God’s promises through such images (as in chapter thirty-five): “The wilderness and the dry land will be glad” or “the mirage will become a pool of water.” Based on such promises, he goes on to give a charge to the People of God, “Encourage the exhausted, and make staggering knees firm. Say to those with an anxious and panic-stricken heart, ‘Be strong, fear not!’”

Sowers plant seed, wait and watch for spring while longing for the harvest. It takes time and patience, intentionality and effort. Storms or droughts might come, but we break the ground to refresh the soil, remove weeds and dead growth. There’s a kind of sweat equity needed, yet many hands make lighter work. And so, we are asked to join with others trusting winter, want and war will not last forever. We plant in hope and trust spring will come and a certain harvest will follow.

This Easter, I hope we all reflect upon what God has done for us in Christ, but we should also consider what God is asking of us in response. We have been sent to this time and this place, for we still live in much the same world of Isaiah. People need our hope, help and companionship, and we need there’s. There’s much work to be done. The time is right for you and me and all to recommit to the work of the church…of being church together.

True, we and our congregation face many challenges each day, but Christ holds us in his crucified, resurrected, loving hands if we let him. Don’t hold onto the past or present with anxiety. Hold on to the promises of the Resurrection. Be strong. Fear not. Share all that you are and have with his Kingdom. Turn over all your cares to Christ. For, it is time to open our hearts and hands toward all anew and discover all the good which God intends to grow and give for our sake and the sake of the world.

Originally published in Messiah Lutheran’s newsletter, The Messenger (April 2017).

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2017 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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Jesus is Risen! Now what?

empty_tomb

We welcome Easter morn with shouts of “Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed!” As they echo through our sanctuary, I wonder if that truth will continue to resonate through our lives. Jesus is risen, we proclaim. His resurrection is to be a new, ongoing reality for us; one that changes our actions and very being. This is present tense, touching our here and now; in our lives, our world, and his holy universal church.

Yet like those first disciples surprised by the empty tomb, we can instead get lost in that past moment of time. The resurrection tends to serve as a historical marker rather than a living sign for our present reality. We remain stuck in our shock and fear trying to make sense of things. What can such a resurrection mean? Perhaps more so, what can it mean for me?

Soon after that first Easter morning, Peter preached that Jesus was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. Paul explains to us in many of his letters that through faith the power of that resurrection makes us a new being, a child of God, and we will be heirs to Christ’s victory to share in that resurrection forever.

This is all true, yet neither great Apostle came to understand the resurrection as a singular past event or one all about our far off future with Christ. Instead, the Risen Christ and the Holy Spirit woke them from their initial shock. It was revealed that they were to share in the living resurrection for eternity – starting now. Christ’s light is to shine through us as we walk with him and talk with him, but unlike that old Gospel song (In the Garden), we cannot tarry there.

Jesus instead tells us, “I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” This resurrected life isn’t one found by standing alone; mute and in shock. It isn’t a life solely about what Jesus can do for us as individuals or a community. It calls us to action.

The resurrected life that we are invited to share is one of living relationship. It is one of service, fellowship, and corporate worship. It is one where we seek to follow Jesus each day and introduce him to others. It is one where we might even be called to share in the sting of Christ’s sacrifice and cross out of love.

Let’s not just stand here pondering. Let’s live like we believe in the resurrection. As the Father has sent him, he sends us now. Among the greatest miracles, Jesus has chosen to make the resurrection universal and eternal through our own unworthy love and lives. We must now go and share that miracle with others, for Jesus is truly risen in us. We are to live as his risen body, a resurrected people, forever – starting now.

Christ’s peace be with you always,
Pastor Lou

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2013 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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Filed under Church History, Lectionary, Liturgical Year, Pastoral Letter

Love & Resurrection

I lost fear in the black belt when I began to know in my bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord’s death and Resurrection, that in the only sense that really matters I am already dead, and my life is hid with Christ in God. – Jonathan Daniels

Jonathan Daniels was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. He went on to become an Episcopal seminarian at the Harvard Divinity School, and from there, became a martyr in the deep south on August 20, 1965.

Jonathan Daniels was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. He went on to become an Episcopal seminarian at the Harvard Divinity School, and from there, became a martyr in the deep south on August 20, 1965. To learn more, click this image.

Jonathan Daniels was a white seminarian who felt called to help Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with civil rights work in the Deep South. Shortly before his martyrdom, he penned the words above. In his work, he had stared down violent threats and intimidation. His freedom in Christ helped him love with great abandon. Indeed, he loved unto death.

On Friday, August 20, 1965, he was heading to a general store in Hayneville, Alabama to get drinks with three friends. A local man, Tom Coleman, met them as they approached. He threatened them and leveled his gun at seventeen-year-old Ruby Sales who was African American. Daniels pushed Sales down to the ground and caught the full blast of the discharge. He died a martyr living out Jesus’ teaching, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Martin Luther King, Jr. said Jonathan Daniel’s martyrdom was “one of the most heroic deeds of which I have heard in my entire ministry and career for civil rights.”

We might never be called to martyrdom, but we are called to love with abandon like Jonathan Daniels and so many of our Christian brothers and sisters before us. Ordinary people in so many ways, many of the greatest saints were quite fallible. Yet, they experienced the love of Christ in a way that changed them. They came to understand resurrection was not just an event only involving Christ in the distant past or one far in the future at the end of time. We can live a resurrected life starting now when we trust Jesus with our lives. It is that trust that frees us from sin, death, and the Devil. It frees us to love in miraculous ways, whether the world recognizes it or not.

I pray that as we approach another Easter, we don’t seek Christ in any old, dusty tomb. Let us seek him in our hearts and the relationships God leads us into. Find him in his holy word, studying it alone or with others. Encounter a foretaste of the feast to come in corporate worship at church or in the home. Serve the Risen Christ in the one’s he has entrusted to your care, perhaps even those whom you resent or whom are your enemies.

Yes, Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed! It is amidst our ordinary life and among our average neighbors that we will find him and begin to experience the new life he promises. He has gone ahead of us, waiting for us in our future. Do not be afraid. Rejoice, for “there you will see him,” much as the disciples were told in Matthew 28:7.

Christ’s peace to you, and happy Easter!

Pastor Lou

The above pastoral letter was originally published in Messiah Lutheran Church and School’s newsletter, The Messenger (March 2013 edition). To view the entire issue of The Messenger or to see the full calendar of events, visit: http://www.mlcas.org

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2013 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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Filed under Church History, Community Life, saints, social justice, Uncategorized

Saved for a Reason

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’  (Rev. 21:3-4)

 During the season of Easter, we intentionally remember the time of Christ’s resurrection as well as the birth of his church. It is a springtime within the history of salvation, one that continues today. The first fruits of new life appear, thanks to the Spirit dwelling within the hearts of all those that believe. The sacraments and our shared ministry in Christ’s name prove to be means of grace with the power to build us up while changing our world. Yes, a new day dawned with the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and yet, we all know that sin and death still do their dirty work. Fortunately, the resurrection is not the end of the story, only a new beginning.

As a gift to the world, God created us, Jesus called us, and the Spirit offers to nurture and guide us. Along with all of creation, we groan for the fullness of time where every tear will be wiped away (Romans 8). Yet even as we struggle with our own sin and imperfection, we are never left alone. Together, we are Christ’s body – living out God’s answer to the pain of this world. Jesus asks us in his name to wipe away tears and offer hope until there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

Our participation in the shared life of Christ’s church is never really about what we get out of it. We have been saved for a reason. We are meant to be living signs of a new life being offered to all. Through our service, fellowship and worship, God prepares for the day when all things will be made new. Through his living church, that final, perfect day is already dawning, and Jesus is calling us home to dwell with him forever. Come join us and see for yourself. Come and truly live.

Peace,

Pastor Lou

The above pastoral letter was originally published in Messiah Lutheran Church and School’s newsletter, The Messenger (May 2011 edition). To view the entire issue of The Messenger or to see the full calendar of events, visit: http://www.mlcas.org

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2011 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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