CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©
I would love to say that Easter is my favorite time of the Christian year, but it is not. I like Christmas better.
Those two holidays are the hardest time for a preacher, not just because the church is very busy and people are under a lot of stress, but because you know you will preach to a lot of folks who will not hear a sermon any other time. It’s a once a year, or maybe twice a year, opportunity. You want to make the most of it. Besides, since they come only on those holidays, they have heard those sermons before, the only themes they ever hear. There is a whole lot of the Gospel that is not included in the Christmas and Easter narratives, and people need to hear the fullness, but how to you do justice to the major points—incarnation and resurrection—and cover the rest, too, all in twenty minutes?
Christmas I did pretty well. I could always write a story to use as a sermon for Christmas, something folksy that people would understand, be able to see themselves in, help them to think about the meaning of the whole Gospel, inspire them to live more hopefully. It’s easier to preach if you don’t have to preach.
Easter does not lend itself easily to stories. The stories that are already there are overwhelming. It’s hard to do them justice by telling them in another way, and it’s also hard to do them justice telling them in the same old way. People have heard them over and over. Some folks, those are the only stories of faith they have heard, and they are inoculated.
For fifty hears I laid awake on Saturday night before Easter morning, knowing I needed my sleep, since we get up extra early on Easter, and being unable to sleep because I was still trying to find that elusive word to preach. Maybe it was just out of habit, but I did it again last night, trying to find the proper word for this blog this morning.
Those sleepless nights always produced some variation of this: resurrection is not really about a body getting out of a grave. It’s not about the future. It’s about the present. The hope of resurrection takes away the fear of nothingness in death, and that allows us to live without fear now. As always, the Gospel, the Good News, is about the eternal present.
John Robert McFarland
The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP], where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]
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