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Our neighbor George recently spoke about the importance or centrality of the resurrection for the Christian community.

Easter is more, he pointed out, than a chocolate rabbit, a marshmallow peep or a spring flower, though they are all popular at this time of the year.

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Those who follow Jesus as disciples and believe in his life and teaching often fall into several categories when it comes to understanding the resurrection.

For some it is simply a day on the calendar when we combine the biblical story of Jesus rising from the dead along with other festival Easter stories.

For others who want to go deeper it is a time when the Easter "alleluias" are put into practice in daily life.

Beyond death and resurrection they take seriously the words of Jesus that "I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (NRSV Matthew 28.20b). This group often points to the transforming power of the resurrection in the lives of the early disciples. At one point they were cowards hiding behind closed doors and the next moment they are boldly proclaiming the good news and risking their lives in the process. Something happened to change their lives. This group believes this transforming power is available for us today.

Still, others struggle with the resurrection accounts found in the letters of the Apostle Paul and the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, and finally John. It is interesting that Paul, the earliest writer, does not go into details of the resurrection but rather puts his emphasis on the life-changing vision that he and others had and still have.

The Gospel writers documenting 30 or more years late attempt to retell the story of what happened that first Easter morning from their own traditions. In the end, though, they often vary widely, they all agree that Jesus was alive in some form.

After reading the biblical accounts and trying to discern their message, these "Jesus-followers" come to the conclusion that the resurrection on Easter morning is still a faith mystery. The mystery is found in the firm belief that something powerful took place in the days after the crucifixion of Jesus and how the lives of the disciples were so radically transformed.

Is it possible to believe that the power of the resurrection on that first Easter is still available for our lives today? This is the belief that the new life is not isolated in an event 2,000 years ago but is now offered to us.

We are not simply speaking of an eternity or an afterlife someplace in the distant future. As Jesus taught, the eternity of the kingdom of God is now!

Are we challenged to believe that the words of Jesus in what we call Our Lord's Prayer — "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6.10) — is a possible reality in the present?

Are the words "Blessed are the peacemakers" not simply some devotional line in the Beatitudes/Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5.9) but a challenge on how we are called to live with one another? The Apostle Paul challenges us to be part of the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5.18) that is to bring people to gather in the name of Jesus. Paul's image is of building up, not tearing down.

Our complaint is that these things are not possible in the sinful and fallen world we live in today. The Easter response comes back that the power of new life coupled with the presence of the risen Jesus, along with the power of the Spirit at Pentecost, can make it happen. We are encouraged to take this leap of faith!

The disciples, liberated by the resurrection, were set free from their own inhibitions to practice the faith of Jesus. Free to love the enemy, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, bring relief to the poor, care for the sick and promote the Kingdom of God here on the Earth — the very things that Jesus himself lived and died for.

Jesus said, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." As followers we are called to share the message of abundant living. Jesus said that he had come not to be served but to serve. As followers we remember the night when Jesus, the leader, took a towel like a servant and washed the feet of his disciples. Even more importantly he reminded us, "So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet" (John 13.14).

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Empowered by the Spirit we are called to live and practice resurrection today.

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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