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A Letter from Pastor Mary



Dear Friends in Faith and Struggle:


The acclaimed preacher Barbara Brown Taylor said,


Christianity is the only world religion that confesses a God who suffers. It is not that popular an idea, even among Christians. We prefer a God who prevents suffering, only that is not the God we have got. What the cross teaches us is that God’s power is not the power to force human choices and end human pain. It is, instead, the power to pick up the shattered pieces and make something holy out of them – not from a distance but right close up (from God in Pain).


Isn’t it staggering to think of our faith like that? It makes so much sense. People often wonder why a good God allows suffering, especially of innocents. While I wish I had a ready answer, especially in those most poignant moments, I do know that God in Jesus was innocent, but suffered as well.


We are now at the moment, at Easter, when we realize, again maybe, or for the first time, that God indeed transforms our suffering into something holy, and beautiful, and life-changing. That is the example of the cross.


The first thing I think we should remember about this Holy Weekend and Easter is that Jesus did not relish suffering. He accepted it, but he also asked God to “let this cup pass” from him. There is nothing beautiful or helpful about needless suffering.


Second, we need to remember that Jesus suffered not at God’s hands, but at the hands of a sinful humanity who did not understand Jesus nor did they want his message of love to go any further than it did. Lots of suffering is human caused, which makes it neither inevitable nor acceptable. Part of our call as Christians is to help alleviate suffering where we can.


Third, it is not Jesus’ innocent suffering that makes him the Messiah. He is hardly unique in that regard. Innocent people suffer all the time, whether from war, famine, illness, or a host of other causes. Rather, it is his resurrection that makes Jesus the Christ, and unlike Lazarus, whom Jesus resurrected, Jesus lives forever in God. Resurrection is the action that God takes against death and against sin as the ultimate example of transformation. Jesus, sometimes called “the firstborn of the dead,” leads the way for us into a new life, a life in God’s kingdom, where lions lie down with lambs, and children are safe wherever they play.


Sometimes I think people are too excited about Jesus’ suffering and not interested enough in his resurrection. But we do call ourselves Good Friday people. We live in a Good Friday world. We are Easter people – Jesus’ resurrection is our reason to be! In this Good Friday world, we are meant to point to Easter, to manifest Easter in our lives, and to keep our eyes on Easter even when all other signs of the time are so very discouraging.


Friends, the good news of this April, and indeed every day, is this: He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!


In resurrection hope,


The Rev. Dr. Mary N. Pugh, Pastor