"So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." -2 Corinthians 5:17-18
The verdict should have been enough to call the whole thing off for this young seminary student. After two years of hopeless rhetoric surrounding the future of the church, an email sat in my inbox sentencing me to one year in the Pacific Northwest—the religious wasteland of the United States! For decades, Oregon and Washington have been setting the trend for the rest of the country as less and less people head to church on Sunday mornings or even identify themselves as Christian. Now the rest of the country is catching up and it's leaving our seminaries wondering, "What is God up to in our churches?" It's also leaving our seminary students wondering, "What in the world am I doing in ministry?"
So there I was awaiting my first year of full-time ministry, surrounded by titles of gloom and doom: "The Death of the Church," "The Demise of Religion," and "The Rise of the 'Nones." I have to admit the anxiety of it all was nearly enough to send me hightailing back to school to study something a little more... lucrative. Yet amidst all the dreary forecasts for the Church's future and all the statistics that say no one is committed to church any more, nothing could have been further from my experience here at Messiah.
In my mere seven months with this community I have witnessed incredible glimpses of God's kingdom—glimpses that defy the doom and gloom language of our time. I have witnessed an openness to listen and to learn. I have witnessed a willingness to change, addressing new needs of the church and God's people. I have witnessed a deep appreciation of Lutheran tradition and history. This is the work of reconciliation that Paul writes about and it is what I consistently witness in each person in this community that seeks to love and serve their neighbor.
But the work isn't done yet. As Christians we proclaim the good news of Easter but we also look to the places in our lives and in our world where sin and death reside. As we draw closer to the end of our Lenten journey together, we recognize that God's work of creating all things new is not yet finished. Easter isn't just about the warm and fuzzy feelings of Easter morning with the loud hymns and the loud brass. Easter is about the resurrection: God's unbelievable promise of creating life from death.
Perhaps our churches have lost hope in this promise. It took God calling me to this new place and this new community to re-ignite my hope of our future. As Easter dawns on the horizon before us, let us not be afraid to look to the places in our lives where God is working to resurrect new hope and new life. Maybe it's a club or a small group that God has been tugging on your heart to join. Maybe it's a broken relationship waiting for an apology and reconciliation. Maybe it's a new ministry God is calling you to start here at Messiah. Through Christ's death and resurrection, God is alive and at work reconciling the world, creating joy from sorrow, hope from hopelessness, and new life from death. Sure it's the same Easter but in Christ all things are new!