So [the women who were told of Jesus resurrection] went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid. Mark 16:8, NRSV
"See, I am making all things new." Rev. 21:5, NRSV
We are so used to the joy of Easter that the fearful reaction of the women who first heard the good news of Jesus' resurrection seems odd. The Easter event tells us that Christ has conquered death, and because he rose, we too shall be raised to live with God forever. So why were the women at that first Easter so afraid?
I wonder if they were afraid because they knew Easter meant the end of the world to which they had grown accustomed, that God was opening a brand-new, unfamiliar future for them. Because this future worked by new rules where the dead did not stay dead, and old patterns were being replaced with new, I wonder if it filled them with both terror and exhilaration. Jesus' resurrection meant that their old ways of navigating the world were ending, and if they told anyone, it would be the end for them too.
No longer was God separated from God's people. No longer would they have to live only for themselves since their future was secure. Now God would live in and through them. And as God lived in them, God would change them, just as God had already changed their future.
Interestingly, their future included persecution, imprisonment, exile, and execution—scary things. However, God changed them from being fearful followers, to courageous leaders who, with the rest of the early disciples, boldly proclaimed the good news to people throughout the world. (Without them, I would not need to write this article.) Despite their fears, they experienced peace, joy, and hope beyond their wildest imaginations. They came to accept the future as something not to be afraid of, but something to be embraced—a future filled with God who gives life to the dead and courage to the fearful.
We at Messiah have been giving a lot of thought, prayer, and discernment time to the future to which God is calling us. At a Special Meeting of the Congregation on Sunday, March 18, the Church Leadership Team will be inviting your support of a capital campaign to bring a Mission Developer to the staff of Messiah, replace the roofs, retire the debt, and establish a sinking fund for future years.
I will admit to moments of discomfort and fear during the 1 1⁄2 year process that brought us to this leadership plan, moments when I would have preferred to say nothing to anyone because I was afraid—especially of the need for adaptive change in what I consider a stellar congregation. As we together grapple with the changing metrics of "success" for a thriving and vital church, fear is a natural and nearby feeling. We wonder if we can afford these changes both financially and emotionally, and we mourn the fact that, once again, our resurrection God is calling us out of our familiar and secure patterns and into paths untrodden. If we engage this process without noticing that we are always being made new by a God who brings life out of death, fear will reign and we will be tempted to pine for the past.
In our better moments as Christians, we realize we do not need to focus on our fears or our sense of scarcity that persistently wants to cling to the old world and its old ways. In our better moments, we instead focus on God. We look to what God has done and is doing in our own lives and in the life of this dear community we call Messiah. When we do, we see a consistent, reliable pattern to God's life-giving promise of new life.
God has and is doing great things at Messiah and promises to be with us in doing new things in the future. They may seem scary, but God gives courage and faith. The one who raised Jesus from the dead will see to that. Our God is always making things new.
May God bless you this Easter season with the confidence of new life in God's name. And may God bless all of us as we move confidently into the future where God is already working.
Articles and documents that provide background information to the CLT's discernment process and Capital Campaign proposal to the congregation.
Capital Campaign One-Page Overview from the CLT
Capital Campaign Cash Flow Model from the CLT
Frequently Asked Questions Document from the CLT
Reflecting on 40 years at Messiah and Its Future by Doug Ruecker
Report of the CLT's Year-Long Discernment Process by President Kris Ann Bial
Reflections on the Past Year. Hope for the Future by Pr. Kathy Braafladt
Of Pastoral Interns and Missional Directors by Greg Rhodes
Stewardship of Community by Pastoral Intern Ryan Dockery
Pastoral Intern Ryan Dockery shares some of his frustration in pursuing pastoral ministry and his hopes for a Mission Developer at Messiah (4.0 minutes).
Vice President of the Congregation Mike Odren reviews the 3-year process that brings us to this point (6.0 minutes).