Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,April 24, 2011 – Easter Day

Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10

Hope and The Lord of the Last Laugh

At this point today we are in the Central African Republic finally. After 20+ hours of flying and 8+ hours of driving on dirt roads, hopefully we have arrived. Keep us in prayer as we worship and pray with Lutheran Christians so very far away, that something of their evangelistic spirit might seep into the bones of our staunch Lutheran delegation, and that we might be a blessing to them as well.

When Walter Brueggemann led Bible study for the ELCA bishops last month he spoke of God as “the Lord of Last Laugh.”

Drawing upon Psalm 30, he spoke of the God who turns mourning into dancing. Weeping may tarry for a moment, but joy comes in the morning.

This word of hope is hard to hear in our culture of death. We are caught in the “data of despair, a narrative of death, a military consumerism that promotes greed and anxiety. We live in a culture of Orange Alert,” Brueggemann said, his 80-year-old voice belting it out with his arms waving.

Into this world the church is called to proclaim a narrative of hope: a remembered story of bodily reality and holy mystery. We proclaim this hope not as a pollyanna message that denies suffering and death, but rather as a counter message in the face of honest dismay, as the psalmist.

The pastor sings a song that encourages the community of faith to lose themselves in praise and hope. We do not deny our suffering. We embrace a reality much larger and more powerful than anything the world can dole out. Hope then becomes something palpable, and present. Jurgen Moltmann says hope is not another world in the sky, but one right in front of us.

The psalmist, even in the throes of grief, refuses to accept his current circumstances as permanent. Hope is engaging in a life and death struggle with the Holy. This is not an alien thing. It is in fact the most human of actions. Hope is prayer. Prayer is hope.

“Our prayers are simply too domesticated,” said Brueggemann. We pray polite prayers and express polite hope, except when we’re really in deep, deep trouble. Then our prayers get the most real.

Who hopes? Everyone. Hope is an intractable human action. People who are in trouble pray even if they have not been to church. Even if they do not believe in God. These may be the most honest and heartfelt prayers that are ever prayed.

The psalmist (David) is a Jew performing the narrative of hope. Interacting with the divine. The Jews gave us this narrative. Rome was a hopeless narrative about power and power alone. The psalmist cries out to God, because of hope.

Pharoah does not want hope. He does not want the people to cry out. Power brokers silence hope through violence, force, seduction, oppression, law, manipulation, but every silencer learns that silence cannot prevail. Every Herod, every Pharoah, every Hitler learns that in time hope wins out. When silence is broken, newness can emerge. Prayer and hope are the fuel of the kingdom of God.

As a people of the resurrection, we are a people of hope. We point beyond the grave. We point to a vision within this life, and beyond this life. Death does not have the final word. There is more to life than meets the eye.

The church proclaims a narrative of hope, not despair — a narrative of joy in the midst of sorrow. The resurrection does not negate the horror of the cross, but it gives us what we need to get through: Hope.

Many people belive this to be the “Place of the Skull” in Jerusalem because of the skull-like rock formation
This is the garden tomb, not far away, to which people have made pilgrimage for centuries, believing it to be the site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection


Be at peace with God and with one another,Michael Rinehart, Bishop