The Rev. Cynthia Taylor: Words prompt questions that demand answers

On Easter Sunday, churches throughout the world will be shouting these words: “Alleluia! Christ has risen. The Lord has risen indeed.”

 

Those are the most powerful words that we can utter in a church or anywhere else. And because those words are so powerful, so are the questions that come. Powerful questions. Hard questions. Questions that demand to be heard. Questions that demand an answer.

The Lord has risen. Do you seriously believe that stuff?

The Lord has risen. Are you some kind of religious nut?

The Lord has risen. What difference does that make?

I take these and other questions seriously; so should you. Knowing Jesus and making Jesus known has been my life’s work, my reason for being. If I can’t encourage such questions to be asked and face their challenges, then my life’s work has been in vain.

The Lord has risen. Do you seriously believe that stuff? That’s the question I have to ask myself every day, but especially during Holy Week. You see, I can’t begin to prepare for my Easter sermon until after Good Friday. I have to go through each day of Holy Week and experience each tragedy and say, OK, now, do you still believe? Because it’s not always easy to believe.

Holy Week began with the terrorist bombings of Coptic Christians on Palm Sunday. Over 40 people were killed while worshipping. And that was just the beginning of a Holy Week filled with other tragedies large and small.

So, after this week – or any week – the questions come, how can you still believe? Why do I believe and what have I seen that has convicted me of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? What can I share to help you see what I’ve seen that has caused my belief?

During my childhood, there wasn’t a time when I didn’t know something about the Jesus who loves me. That was a gift of my parents. On Easter, my father would bang on the bedroom door and shout, “Alleluia! Christ has risen.” And each of us children were to respond, “The Lord has risen indeed.” I didn’t always respond to that Easter greeting with grace, especially when I was 16 and said that the Lord had risen but that I was going back to sleep. That didn’t go over too well.

It was only later that I thought just how remarkable it was that my father was able to utter those words. He had seen action as a fighter pilot in World War II and served through Vietnam. He lost men and saw friends die. Shouldn’t that kind of witness diminish faith? And yet, Dad came through with a faith that just continued to grow. Even when diagnosed with lung cancer, he was able to say the Lord has risen and mean it.

I think to my sister Lynn, caring for her husband with terminal brain cancer, even while she is still a victim of a traumatic brain injury.

This is what she posted on Facebook just months before he died. “Between Jamie’s brain cancer and my TBI we have some very interesting conversations, lol. Underneath every word we say is LOVE and behind the joy of every day is JESUS.”

Before that posting she painted a picture for me – He heals the brokenhearted. It’s a wounded heart that has been cut and stitched back together. If you look closely you’ll see that the stitches are in the shape of a cross; a shape that heals. Where does this faith come from? A daily encounter with the Risen Lord.

Last year, on Good Friday, I made some hospital visits. A young wife was sitting in a darkened room by the bedside of her husband. When I walked in, she said, “I didn’t expect to see you,” and she began to cry. As I was hugging her, she said, “I was strong until just now.” So I hugged her like she was my own child, which she was and is, because of our relationship in Jesus.

You see, when we share ourselves in this way, it’s not just ourselves we are sharing, it is the joy of Jesus. And it makes a difference.

The Lord has risen. Do you seriously believe that stuff?

The Lord has risen. Are you some kind of religious nut?

The Lord has risen. What difference does that make?

I’ve shared some of my answers to these questions. Now what about you? What would you answer? What would you share? If you have not yet seen the Risen Lord, look around you. He is here.

 

The Rev. Cynthia Taylor is the pastor of the Church of the Holy Comforter in Martinez.

 

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