bBlessings to you from the disciples of the Red Roof Church in Bulverde, Texas. I’m Lee Harder, the senior pastor, coming to you at a very special time of year. Very soon, we will be celebrating the most important day of the year — Easter Sunday, the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Yet, before we can rejoice with Easter joy, we must pass through Holy Week and the Passion of our Lord.
I would personally like to invite you to join the people of St. Paul for one of our Easter celebrations at 8:00, 9:30 or 10:45 AM. However, I cannot encourage you enough to worship on Maundy Thursday and especially Good Friday. These days give depth and meaning to the celebration of Easter.
This week my blog might be a bit longer than usual, but for good reason. There are two vital thoughts I want to share. First, I’ve been watching the live broadcast of the devastating fire that has destroyed much of one of the greatest houses of worship, Notre Dame, in the world. It was with sadness that I saw the spire fall into the cathedral. The loss to Roman Catholics in Paris, the nation of France and the world is over whelming, but it is a loss shared by Christians everywhere. It is also a tremendous loss to history for all people because it can never be recovered or truly restored. Thankfully, at the time of my writing this vlog, there has been no loss of life. My prayers go out for that blessing and for the people who grieve the loss of this great church.
However, of greater concern to me, which I could not help but identify, is the repeated comment almost as a preamble to any statement made by so many during the hours I watched the fire and its reporting. Again and again, from spectators, political officials, and reporters across all network broadcasts was the common phrase, “I’m not a religious person, but…” or its equivalent. That might be a greater tragedy than the devastating loss of Notre Dame.
Where once Europe was the heart of Christianity, now less than 10% identify themselves as believers. Great houses of worship across the European continent have become museums and tourist sites. Even more frightening is the growing desire among politicians, media outlets, elitists and an uninformed general public in this country to become more like Europe, which I see as meaning “to be less Christian.” The world no longer is willing to submit to the authority of God’s rule. Big mistake! That line, “I’m not really religious” sounds as if they are ashamed of their faith as a Christian.
The loss of Notre Dame might indeed be a sign of a declining faith in people. I say that because while there are already promises to rebuild the cathedral (almost $500,000.00 at the time I write this), it will never happen. Oh, we might actually have the billions (yes, I said billions and not millions) it would take, something is still lacking. Gone are the skilled artisans that poured their God-given talents and abilities, literally their hearts and souls, into the building of Notre Dame to give glory to God. It was about doing for God, not glorifying the self, that drove them to create a work of art taking 200 years to complete. That passion isn’t there like it was 800 years ago. A building might be built, but will it’s spirit burn or will it be just another empty shell.
This is sad, but not surprising.
We have entered into Holy Week. For those who believe in Jesus Christ, we have spent 40 days of Lent preparing for the death and resurrection of our Lord. Yet, the vast majority of those who call themselves Christians would just as soon avoid Good Friday worship (it’s depressing) and its focus on the cross and just concentrate on Easter resurrection joy (seasoned with colored eggs, chocolate bunnies and baked ham).
Personally, I cannot understand or appreciate what our Lord did on Easter Sunday, rising from the dead and coming forth out of the tomb, without first standing at the foot of the cross to see His death for us. Our attention at this time must be like a coin. It has two sides, heads and tails. Our hope as Christians is also two sided. It is the death of our Lord on the cross where He defeated sin (our sin), death and the power of the devil (Satan lost). This is side one. The flip side is the empty tomb and a resurrected Savior who makes the promise of eternal life a reality for all those who believe and trust in Him.
The cross without the resurrection is just another death and we still live in our sin. A resurrection without the victory of the cross is an empty victory. When we confess, we confess the DEATH and the RESURRECTION of our Lord not one or the other.
We must stand at the foot of the cross to see for ourselves what WE did to our Lord. We nailed Him to the cross. It was our sin, our disobedience, our rejection of God’s will that placed our Lord on this instrument of torture and death. Once we have done that, Easter morning and the scene of the empty tomb shouts out “Alleluia!” “Jesus lives!” “He is risen!” and so can we. The debt of our sins, which is death, has been paid for by our Lord Jesus in His death for us. His resurrection is the promise of our own when we walk with Him by faith.
As a pastor, I find it shocking to see so many believers absent from worship on the second most important day of the year, Good Friday. Don’t we understand, if there is no cross, there is no resurrection. As painful as it is, I will stand will John and Mary, the mother of our Lord, Mary Magdalene and those others who had the courage to witness the full extend of God’s love for us, His children, by dying so we might have life.
Don’t be one of the Christmas/Easter Christians who can’t bring themselves to look beyond the agony of Jesus’ death with their own eyes and see the victory of the cross and the price that was paid for our sin. Then our tears of sorrow on Good Friday can become shouts of joy and thanksgiving for Easter’s glory on Sunday. Jesus is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
And those are my thoughts.
Have a blessed and joyous Easter. I’ll look for you this Friday and rejoice with you this Sunday. God bless.
Pastor Lee R. Harder