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Bishop Michael Rinehart

The Good Shepherd – Easter 4A

Listen to the sermon by Brother Chris Markert, Bishop’s Associate

The Good Shepherd, by He Qi

Easter 4A – May 3, 2020

Acts 2:42-47 – Description of the early church. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Psalm 23  – The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

1 Peter 2:19-25 – He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

John 10:1-10 – I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.


The Good Shepherd

This week, in place of my usual exegetical notes and sermon ideas, we have a guest preacher, Brother Chris Markert, Bishop’s Associate for Mission in the Texas-Louisiana Coast Synod.

You can watch a video or download this sermon at https://gulfcoastsynod.org/worship-resources-april-2020/. Feel free to plagiarize, or simply drop the video into your livestream.

You can listen to the podcast here.

For additional notes on Acts 2:42-47, see my previous post, The Beloved Community.


Grace and peace to you…  Alleluia! Jesus is risen!  Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Today is the fourth Sunday of Easter. Every year, the Fourth Sunday of Easter is often referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday. We usually hear from the 23rd Psalm (“The Lord is my Shepherd…”). And the Gospel is typically taken from the 10th Chapter of the Gospel of John, where Jesus refers to himself multiple times as the Good Shepherd. Today, we read that the sheep hear the Good Shepherd call them by name, and they follow the Good Shepherd because they know his voice.

[As a child, I was one who liked to wander off. It scared the heck out of my mom when we went places because I liked to wander off to look at things and to talk with strangers and to explore dark hallways… You know, a mother’s worst nightmare…

I recall one Saturday when I was a kid, I was maybe around 6 years old. We were at the mall… specifically, we were at Foleys (for those who remember the great old Houston department store). And as my mom was shopping, I took my leave to go wander around.

Of course, after I spent some time exploring, and looking around, and meeting people, I finally got bored, and went back to find my mom… But she wasn’t where I left her!

I started to panic. I began rushing around, looking up and down the aisles, the circles of clothes, past the perfume, make-up, and jewelry sections. I remember being so afraid that I was lost forever. I began to tremble and cry…

And that’s when I heard my mother’s voice— above the Muzak playing lightly in the background, above the chatter of clerks behind the make-up counter, beyond the buzz of people coming and going through the mall on a Saturday afternoon— I heard my mother in the distance calling my name. And I ran to that voice, and I found her. And she was so relieved to find me— mad as heck, too, but relieved. And I was so thankful that I recognized her voice.]

Take a second and think about all the competing voices you hear in a day. Voices from television, and the radio, from social media and podcasts… politicians’ voices, religious voices, voices from news journalists… voices of neighbors, and co-workers and fellow students… voices of spouses and children… voices that tempt and argue and lie… voices that gossip and bully and tear down.

Which voices do you listen to? Which are you drawn to? Which voices build you up and encourage you, and which harass and harm you?

In the story preceding the one we have in today’s Gospel from John, Jesus heals on the sabbath day a man who was blind since birth. After being healed, the man is brought before the religious authorities who keep asking him about the healing. The man, who is just as astounded as his parents and everyone else, speaks the truth of what happened (as far as he knew), and yet the religious leaders gaslight the poor man. They insult him and call him a liar, ultimately kick him out of the community, telling him he is intrinsically evil.

But Jesus finds the man, and the man ultimately recognizes Jesus’ voice as the one who healed him, and he celebrates and follows Jesus…

So, whose voices fill your heart with hope, and inspire you? Which voices bring healing to you and your life?  Which voices cause you to sit up and pay attention— or fill you with dread? And in the midst of this cacophony of voices, how can you hear the Good Shepherd calling your name?

The Good News today is that the Good Shepherd does know each of us by name, and calls us by name. And this includes each and every one of you. The Good Shepherd calls to each of us, and we hear his voice whenever we hear Good News of sins being forgiven, of relationships being restored, of captives being set free, of peace filling fearful hearts and hope filling despairing souls. This is how we know the voice of the Good Shepherd!

Friends, these are trying, chaotic times. This pandemic has killed and sickened so many around the world. It has wreaked havoc on the global economy and people’s jobs. It has closed downs thriving metropolises and overwhelmed our health care systems and placed our doctors and nurses in significant harm’s way.

It has stretched us to do things we never had to do before, like social distancing, and stay-at-home orders.  I mean just finding pack of toilet paper has been and epic adventure for many people these days!

And, it also means there are new voices vying for our attention. Voices that shout at us to only worry about ourselves, to hoard and panic buy. Voices that coo at us saying we’ll be okay because we’re young and healthy, so we don’t have to follow health protocols. There are voices that try to blame the virus on a particular people or nation. And there are voices that whisper at us in the middle of the night that there is no way the world will escape this, and so it’s just better to give up.

But in the midst of these new competing voices, the Good Shepherd speaks to us saying, “I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly.”  That doesn’t mean an easy life. It doesn’t mean everything will always be hunky-dory, or always go our way. It doesn’t mean there won’t be suffering. But it does mean that we’re not alone.

The God of the Universe has chosen to enter our humanity and accompany us through all the hills and valleys of life. And this God has overcome death and the grave. It’s what Easter is all about.  And it’s what makes the shepherd good.  Alleluia! Jesus is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

Alleluia Indeed – Easter 3

Listen to the sermon by Rev. Dr. Tracey Breashears Schultz, Bishop’s Associate

Easter 3A – April 26, 2020

Acts 2:14a, 36-41 – Peter’s Pentecostal Sermon (part 2). Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 – I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.

1 Peter 1:17-23 – You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

Luke 24:13-35 – Road to Emmaus. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”


The Road to Emmaus

The Road to Emmaus story from Luke 24 is the text appointed for Easter evening in all three years of the lectionary. It is also the text appointed for the third Sunday of Easter in years A and B.

This week, in place of my usual exegetical notes and sermon ideas, we have a guest preacher, Rev. Dr. Tracey Breashears Schultz, Bishop’s Associate for Leadership in the Texas-Louisiana Coast Synod.

You can watch a video or download this sermon at https://gulfcoastsynod.org/worship-resources-april-2020/. Feel free to plagiarize, or simply drop the video into your livestream.

You can listen to the podcast here.

This text follows right on the heels of the women stumbling across an empty tomb. It takes place on Resurrection day, in the evening.

One of my favorite hymns is on this text, Day of Arising, ELW 374. It is written by Susan Cherwien and Carl Schalk. A few years ago I encouraged the synod to sing this throughout the Easter season. The entire hymn is based on this text from Luke 24. There is also a simple Augsburg Fortress arrangement of this for choir and organ, with which the congregation could sing.

Day of Arising

1 Day of arising, Christ on the roadway,
unknown companion walks with his own.
When they invite him, as fades the first day,
and bread is broken, Christ is made known.

2 When we are walking, doubtful and dreading,
blinded by sadness, slowness of heart,
yet Christ walks with us ever awaiting
our invitation: Stay, do not part.

3 Lo, I am with you, Jesus has spoken.
This is Christ’s promise, this is Christ’s sign:
when the church gathers, when bread is broken,
there Christ is with us in bread and wine.

4 Christ, our companion, hope for the journey,
bread of compassion, open our eyes.
Grant us your vision, set all hearts burning
that all creation with you may rise.

Text: Susan Palo Cherwien, b. 1953
Text © 1996 Susan Palo Cherwien, admin. Augsburg Fortress
Tune: RAABE (see RW #149)


If I were to ask you to tell me the story of Christmas, I think you’d know what to include. You would likely tell me about the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary and her Magnificat. You’d probably tell me of Joseph’s dream and how when it came time for the baby to be born, there had been no room in the inn, so the Son of God was laid in a manger. And you would probably include angels and shepherds and magi and “good news of great joy,” wouldn’t you? We know how that story goes, but what of Easter?

Sister Marie Paul, “Road to Emmaus” with female disciple, 1990

Why don’t we do Easter pageants the way we do Christmas pageants? Maybe it’s because there is so much to Easter that we really don’t know. Just look at the way the disciples in today’s story describe what they had experienced. Some women went to the tomb, but the body of Jesus wasn’t there, but some angels were there…or maybe that was a vision (since women can be irrational and emotional and tend to embellish things). Some other disciples, who were responding to the women, went to the tomb, and they didn’t see the body or the angels. They had hoped to see Jesus, but he wasn’t there. Peter peered into the tomb and only saw the grave clothes lying there, and his response was to go home because what did he really know anyway? It seemed to be that Jesus might have risen, but his death was so real, and his rising was only rumored, and so what did they really know or believe, and how was anyone going to tell this story?

I think it rather remarkable, given what we know, or don’t know, of how the Easter story unfolds, that so many seem to equate faith and knowing. In the denomination of my childhood, the preacher would often ask, “Do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?” In the fellowship hall of my grandma’s church, there was a big banner strung from corner to corner that said, “If you died today, do you know you would go to heaven?” The problem is, you think you know Jesus, you think you’re saved, until somebody asks you if you know you are. At the end of worship, the preacher would call for an altar call, and he would say “I just know there is someone in this congregation this morning who wants to know the Lord,” and it always made me wonder if I was the one the preacher was talking about. Did he know something I didn’t know? (Was it ever a blessed relief when someone went up the center aisle to answer the call!)

There is an incredible emphasis and play on the word “knowing” in today’s gospel story. On the Road to Emmaus, a couple of Jesus’ followers are walking from Jerusalem, and a stranger comes and begins to walk in step with them, joining them for the journey. He asks what they are talking about, and they turn to him and ask, “Are you the only one who does not know what has taken place the last three days?” The irony is, of course, that they don’t know the one they’ve supposed is a stranger is really Jesus. It’s finally, at the end, that Jesus is made known to them in the breaking of bread, and the disciples say to each other, “Weren’t our hearts burning within us? Didn’t we know him all along?”

One of the places in this story that moves me is that description of the disciples on the Emmaus Road. Scripture says they are looking sad. I imagine their heads are down as they walk and that their shoulders slump like we do when we’re carrying in our bodies what we don’t know how to express with our words.  I think we can relate to these disciples because they have come from death, and they are mired in grief, and they don’t know what is supposed to happen next or what they are to believe. This Emmaus Road is the Road of Not Knowing, and we’ve all traveled on it. It’s the wait you’ve had for test results. It’s the drive back to the house after the funeral and the new normal that awaits you. It’s the reality of a global pandemic and shelter in place orders and whether or when our lives will return to what we knew of if they can or should. It’s the answers and the faith we all wish we had, and some of the very best news in scripture comes to me when I realize it is when we are on this Not Knowing Road that Jesus comes to us and walks in step with us.

For a long time, I was led to believe that faith was about knowing Jesus, about knowing the right things to pray and to say, about having answers when the Sunday school teacher asked. It seemed Jesus would come to me when I had my life straightened out, when I got over my grief and fears. It turns out, I was wrong. Faith comes to us on the Emmaus Road, on the Not Knowing Road. When you find yourself along that path, whether or not you can know it, Jesus will be walking with you, not because of something you’ve done or not done, but because Jesus knows you need him and his risen life.

During this Easter season, the liturgy has us greeting one another: “Alleluia! Christ is risen.” “Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!” That word “indeed” gets me. How can we be so sure? How do we really know? Why don’t we hesitate to answer this way? Could it be because Jesus has been made known to us? Come to think of it, haven’t our hearts burned within us? Haven’t we known him on the road all along? Indeed.

Easter 2020

A tribute to our creative Gulf Coast Synod leaders on the strangest Easter Sunday of my lifetime. We’ve been at home for a month now, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Addy dances her way into Easter just before Advent Lutheran Church in Houston’s Easter livestream.

I came across many of these by casually browsing my Facebook feed. If there’s a picture of you and your congregation that you’d prefer not have up, just let me now. Likewise, if you don’t see your congregation, feel free to send me a photo to add to this post.

Brutal Facts/Surprising Hope

Listen to the podcast by Bishop Michael Rinehart

Easter 2A – April 19, 2020

Easter 2A – April 19, 2020

 Acts 2:14a, 22-32 – Peter’s Pentecostal Sermon (part 1). This man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.

Psalm 16 – Protect me O God, for in you I take refuge.

1 Peter 1:3-9  Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

John 20:19-31  When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Doubting Thomas: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.


Brutal Facts / Surprising Hope

Today’s post is a bit of departure from usual. Instead of exegetical notes and sermon ideas, this is the text of a sermon I preached and posted in video format for a Synod Leaders to use.

You can watch a video of this sermon at https://gulfcoastsynod.org/worship-resources-april-2020/

You can listen to the podcast here.

19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Grace to you and peace in the name of Jesus the crucified Jew, who lived briefly, died violently, and rose unexpectedly.

Today’s gospel reading begins on Easter evening, and concludes on the following Sunday, a week later.

It was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of house where the disciples had met we locked, because of fear…

There’s so much there in that one Scripture verse with which we can resonate. Again:

It was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of house where the disciples had met we locked, because of fear…

What doors in your life are closed and locked because of fear?

I hope you are being kind to one another these days. Fear shuts people down. Crises tend to have an eroding effect on our spirit, and we are only a month into what could go longer. What people need right now is kindness. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be ye kind, one unto another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.”

We are in a pandemic. Let’s just name it and claim it. People are getting sick. The effects of a pandemic: Some people are dying. This causes fear and anxiety. Naming it does not give it power. It gives you power. Own it. Or as they say in the military, ”Embrace the suck.”

Because of the pandemic, we’ve been staying at home, not going out, kids taking classes online and getting bored, which means a lot of togetherness. It’s easier than ever to get irritable. Easier than ever to get on one another’s nerves. Domestic violence cases are up. That’s not good.

Because we’re staying at home, there is economic impact. Some are out of work. Businesses are struggling. Some won’t make it. My 401K is now a 201K. And to top it all off there’s no toilet paper at the store every time I go there!

Because of all this, there is a corporate sense of grief, and a low-grade anxiety that is perfectly normal, and yet somewhat debilitating.

Owning all this is not panicking. It is being honest about where we are. The truth will set you free. The facts are your friends.

Navy Vice Admiral James Stockdale was the senior naval officer at the Hanoi Hilton. He was routinely tortured and denied medical attention. When asked how he got through this he said you have to hold two things together: You have to, on the one hand, confront the most brutal truths about your situation, while on the other hand you must never lose hope that you will prevail. He said,

You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

This is the dilemma of the disciples after the crucifixion of Jesus. They had watched the torture and brutal execution of their leader, their messiah. The one they had followed around the countryside for three years, the one who preached love of God and neighbor, was wiped out by the opposition in a bloody crucifixion. They were broken-hearted. And what’s more, they were likely being hunted themselves, because when the Romans killed a messiah they usually also killed the inner circle of leaders and sometimes their families. Want to talk about afraid, anxious and feeling shame. And so they were in hiding in the upper room, behind locked doors. Their own form of self-quarantine.

Mary Magdalene and others claimed Jesus had appeared to them. It was too much to hope for. Then more of them had an epiphany of sorts, but not Thomas. He was unwilling to give in to hope. 🙂

Do you ever have trouble giving in to hope? Resurrection shines its light into the darkness but you don’t dare hope. Do you find yourself so used to anxiety, fear and doubt, that you can’t let hope in?

1 Peter (5:8) says “Your adversary, Satan prowls like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Seeking whom he may devour.” Isn’t that what doubt and hopelessness feel like? And they will eat you alive.

There’s nothing wrong with you. Fear and anxiety are perfectly normal. Doubt is perfectly normal. Luther said, “Only God and certain madmen have no doubts.” But if you let them, doubt, fear and anxiety will consume you.

So, the disciples are hiding in the upper room. The doors are locked because of fear. This is probably the same room where Jesus celebrated his last supper with them, where he washed their feet to set an example of servanthood, and where he commanded them to love one another.

Jesus entered into their room of fear, and the first words out of his mouth were, “Peace be with you.” In fact he will say these words three times in today’s passage. He showed them his hands side and then again he said, “Peace be with you.”

Then he breathed on them. I don’t recommend you do this now! He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. As the Father has sent me so I send you.” This is John’s Pentecost. Pentecost in Acts was written by Luke, but for John, Pentecost takes place on the Sunday after Easter, when Jesus gives the frightened disciples the Holy Spirit and sends them out.

What turned these terrified disciples hiding in the upper room behind locked doors of fear into globetrotting apostles who are willing to give their lives for the sake of this good news? Something profound must’ve happened to them, it’s almost as if they saw a ghost…

Thomas was not with them, and he wasn’t having it. Unless I see the scars from the nails in his hands and put my hand in his side I will not believe. People wanna demonize Thomas, but you can’t blame him. With all the fake news going around, he wants proof. Some say that Thomas is the patron saint of Missouri, the show me state.

Once again Jesus walked through the doors of fear and said, “Peace be with you.” See me. Hear me. Touch my side. Trust me to dispel your doubt and fear. Do not doubt but believe. And Thomas said, “My God…”

Jesus said, “Have you believed because you have seen? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.“

And then the reading ends with the first ending of John’s Gospel: “Now Jesus did many more things that are not written in this book, but these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing you might have life in his name.“ Life with a capital L.

Conclusion

I have good news for you. Jesus drives away doubt and fear. Jesus walks through our locked doors of fear and blesses us with a peace that passes all understanding, so that we may have life abundantly.

I have good news: Psalm 46 says, “God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in time of trouble.  Thought the mountains quake in the heart of the sea, though the waters roar and foam, we will not fear.” Be not afraid. God is your strength.

I have good news: This is going to be really difficult. There will be loss, but I am 99% sure you will pull through it. Most won’t get infected, and for those who do, the coronavirus mortality rate is less than 1%. So 99% of those infected will pull through. The odds are in your favor. For most of us, our social distancing is not for our benefit, but for others. So have faith and hope. Trust God. Isaiah 40 says, “Wait on the Lord, who will renew your strength, so that you will run and not be weary, walk and not faint, so you will mount your on wings like an eagle.

I have even better news. Even if you’re in the 1%, God has your back. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. You are loved with an everlasting love that is stronger than the grave. Psalm 23 says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup is running over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Maundy Thursday around the Gulf Coast Synod – April 9, 2020

Holy Week

Okay, so Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and they had a parade to welcome him. They rolled out the proverbial red carpet with palm branches and garments instead. Why would they do that? Jesus had been gradually building a crowd as his ministry moved from his home town in Galilee to the north, through Samaria, then south to Judea, finally arriving at Jerusalem. His soulful preaching (Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7) and his healing ministry among those who were cast out of social and religious circles made him popular with the people. Of course Jerusalem, the biggest city, would have the biggest crowd, but beware of popularity. After all, the most popular restaurant in the US is McDonalds. Let’s that sink in.

The parade would be his undoing. Huge crowds cheering and waving palm branches attracted the attention of the authorities. It looked too much like one of Caesar’s triumphal marches. Who does he think he is? Pronouncing him “King of the Jews,” was nothing less than treason. The Romans tended to crucifiy people who threatened to overthrow their government. Jesus’ tantrum in the Temple also got him crossways with the religious authorities. The Temple was, after all, Jerusalem‘s financial center, and its largest bank. Don’t ever mess with the economy.

Crowds are fickle. Popularity is fleeting. Cries of “Hosanna!“ quickly turn to “Crucify him!” as the tide shifts this week. Popularity is a thing. It’s a real thing. It’s a seductive thing. Ego-expanding accolades can tempt us away from saying and doing the hard thing, the right thing, the unpopular thing. Even Jesus will pray this week, “Let this cup pass from me.” Who doesn’t prefer popularity to the way of the cross?

Preaching the truth about this world will not make you the most popular preacher in town, but the truth will set you free. We know the world is messed up, but we prefer rose-colored glasses here in the “developed” world. People want to hear preaching that tickles their ears. Please don’t disturb me with the troubles of the world.

The Good News isn’t all that good if it doesn’t confront the most brutal facts about the world. Jesus breathes our poisoned air. He confronts reality as it is. He is not exempt from the suffering we see every day, if we open our eyes. He casts his lot with the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. God shows up in a violent world, and engages the forces of death by giving away his life in an act of selfless, sacrificial love. God on the gallows. God on the lynching tree. We who follow him believe it’s either Jesus’ way of being in the world, or it’s game over.

Easter proclaims that life conquers death, all evidence to the contrary. God is revealed in the common, ordinary, humble, suffering of this world and in the companionate who care about them, not in those who seem to dazzle us with their wealth or self-proclaimed greatness. Hope is more tenacious than despair. Love is a more powerful, life-transforming force in the world than hate. This trust in a love that is stronger than sin, death and the grave is an absurd faith, which is probably why the apostle Paul called it the “foolishness of the cross,” and those who follow it “fools for Christ.”

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