When a child hears a really good story, her response is, “Tell it again!”
If she really, really likes it, you may be telling it over and over for quite a while. As a parent of two teenagers, I think that I would gladly read “Goodnight Moon” again, in about another 22 years or so.
This weekend, in much of the Christian Church, we are telling our favorite story again, just like we have each and every year at this time.
We tell this story over and over, because we know that this is the most important story in the world. The story of Jesus — of his suffering, death and resurrection. This is the story that we believe bears to us (and to all who will hear), God’s redeeming love to a world that desperately needs to be saved.
The Church, in the wisdom of the centuries, has shaped these days with worship that will walk us through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. In these services, we do more than tell the story. We re-enter these events and again encounter the life saving work of Jesus.
We will once again gather as Jesus’ disciples did in the upper room, and we will hear of Jesus giving the Lord’s Supper as a gift to feed the faith of his people. We will hear as Jesus says that one will betray him, and we will hear the disciples ask, “Is it I Lord?” If we have fully entered the story, we might well ponder our own betrayals — the ways we have betrayed Jesus, fallen short of our callings and hurt those we love the most.
We will again hear of the sad events of Good Friday, where Jesus is convicted in a sham trial, and he is abandoned by even his closest friends. We will witness the crucifixion of Jesus, and we will hear Jesus announce from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” If we have fully entered the story, we will hear Jesus’ announcement of forgiveness for his greatest enemies, and we will know that this mercy is for us as well in our abandonment of Jesus when he needs us by his side.
We will gather on Sunday to rejoice in the resurrection, and in the unfolding wonder of it all, we will see that the character of God is revealed in suffering love. The life that God holds for all, is hidden in the cross and the resurrection. Our human brokenness is revealed in the violence done to Jesus. And the power of love is revealed in Christ who suffers, forgives, dies and rises, and then calls you to live in God’s peace, love and hope.
It is interesting that in Holy Week, churches are more able to hold services that unite us across our denominational divides. In spite of our own faults and failings that continue to divide us, the simple remembering of the cross and the resurrection, the simple engaging of the story calls for us to simply listen to the story, enter its world shattering power and be renewed by God’s abiding gifts for us.
When we hear a really good story, the response is not, “What does that mean?” The response is “Tell it again!”
As you hear it again, as you sing God’s praises, may the Easter Good News shine forth anew for you. Blessed Easter to you!
Phil Wold is a pastor with Trinity Lutheran Church in Sheridan.