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Our neighbor George recently commented that he felt it was a mistake for the early church to create a special day on the calendar (or even an ecclesiastical season) for the holiday we call Easter. He went on to say that for some Easter day simply means the arrival of spring with warm weather, rabbits, blooming flowers and blossoming trees. Then we move on to the next holiday. But for those who have chosen to "walk in the dust of the Messiah," Easter means resurrection and the transformation of human life which we are called to practice not one day out of the week but each and every day.

George added that in the gospel of Luke (9.23) Jesus said, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." The word "daily," — meaning in the midst of life — is the key.

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There is a challenge from writer Henry Knox Sherill for each one of us. He wrote, "The joyful news that He is risen does not change the contemporary world. Still before us lie work, discipline, sacrifice. But the fact of Easter gives us the spiritual power to do the work, accept the discipline, and make the sacrifice." Let us accept the challenge by sharing a few thoughts (you probably have many more).

We start with the critical word "transformation." No matter how you understand the account of resurrection on Easter morning, it is obvious that human lives were radically transformed. From fearful on the day of crucifixion to courageous on the day of resurrection! But it doesn't stop there! Easter will remain simply a holiday event of the past unless our lives today — daily — are transformed by the resurrection. Every day we are called to "die to self" and allow the power of the risen Savior to bring us back to the new life. Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wrote "The Cost of Discipleship" is credible because he lived out what he wrote. Do we live out in daily life what we say we believe?

The transformation that we have experienced is not ours to keep. Once we have experienced the change in our own lives we are commanded to share it or give it away. The words of Jesus to Mary at the tomb "go and tell" is our responsibility. People expect the pastor/priest to be an agent of sharing transformation. One person even said "that's why we pay our pastor!" But the truth is that lay people can witness even better. If God has guided you through the death of a child or spouse, or when you had issues with alcohol or drugs or couldn't pay your rent or mortgage or you went through depression or had suicidal thoughts, then each one of us should share the story of God's presence with another person going through the same issues.

Second, as transformed followers by the Spirit of God we are called to "encourage one another and build up each other…." (I Thessalonians 5.11). My dad used to say, "If you are going to use a hammer, use it to build up and not tear down." Not only in the world today but especially in America we have a lot of tearing down going on. We can disagree with another person, even radically, but we don't have to belittle them or make fun of them, call them hurtful names or even imply they are our enemies. We are commanded to find common ground not through the Republican or Democratic party — not from being liberal or conservative — but by and from our Lord, His life and His teaching. A lot of people, including some in government and sadly some in church congregations seem to enjoy building themselves up while pushing others down. The Apostle Paul wrote "all things are lawful but not all things build up." (I Corinthians 10.23) We often justify "tearing down" because we are right and "they" are wrong. Do you think that "tearing down" is a sin?

Third, we need to build bridges of understanding rather than walls of separation. Each one of us knows it is far easier to build a wall to separate ourselves from others we disagree with or don't like than it is to build a bridge of communication. We often create circles to keep people out. Jesus redraws (often against our advice) the circle to bring people in. A perfect example is the parable Jesus told about a beaten Jew who was left for dead on the side of the road and his own people passed him by. The shock, Jesus said, is that he was helped by his mortal enemy, a Samaritan. (Luke 10.25-37). Then Jesus tells us "to go and do likewise." Jesus said, "If you love me you will keep, my commandments" (John 14.15) and then went on to add, "I give you a new commandment that you love one another — just as I have loved you, you also should love one another" (John 13.34). Even the unloveable. Even the enemy.

Fourth, we need to take seriously the words of the Apostle Paul to those who claim to follow Jesus, "Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others." (Philippians 2.4). For many of us, if we are happy and satisfied and well cared for that is the end of the conversation. But our Holy Scriptures reopen the conversation with the words "if one member suffers all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it." (I Corinthians 12.26). It isn't all about me! What does this say about health care, or the new national tax plan or legal/ illegal immigration or starving children when our food markets are full of food?

There is a radical difference between "going to church" and "being the church." Resurrection is not a story from the past but our story to be lived out every day.

Let the dialogue continue. I only ask that you think on these things.



The Rev. Dr. Wm. Louis "Lou" Piel is pastor of Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Finksburg and can be reached at julo1@verizon.net.

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