Easter Message 2018

(Painting: Easter Morning, James B. Janknegt, 1992)

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14)

Thank you, pastors. Thank you, lay leaders. Thank you, congregations and denominations.

The week from Palm Sunday through Good Friday to Easter Sunday is the most intense week of the year for the local church. You prepare extra sermons, services, music, bulletin and more as we celebrate the center of Christian faith, the death of Jesus on the cross and his empty tomb three days later. Amidst all the work you are doing now, I remind you: it matters. This work is not done in vain.

First of all, it is not in vain because the work you do tells a story that is true. Without that reality of Good Friday and Easter morning, it is so much busy-work. Because of that reality, “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead” gives power and meaning to the work you are doing now (Romans 8:11).

Second of all, it is not in vain because of the fruit it bears in people’s lives. As the Executive Director of the New Hampshire Council of Churches, I see the fruit that comes from faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Everywhere I go, I meet Christians of many denominations and congregations who show up to bear fruit. Let me offer you a few examples:

By faith, we believe that we can repeal the death penalty in New Hampshire. Our faith believes that the cross of Jesus was God’s “never again” to capital punishment. And so, Christians shared that faith powerfully during the hearing on SB593 in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

By faith, we believe that we can eliminate fear immigrants. Our faith believes that the cross of Jesus took down the wall of sin between us and God, so no walls should separate us here and now. And so, Christians share that faith powerfully when they come together for Prayer Vigils for Immigrant Justice or participate in the Immigrant Solidarity Network.

There’s so much more fruit that your congregations and your people bear. Active Shooter response trainings reduce fear and increase safety while giving no room to violence. Christians are uniting across long-standing barriers to serve the individuals and families harmed by the opioid crisis.

From my perspective, each Christian bearing fruit in these areas comes from one of our local churches. The work you do in the next week matters. Proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus is not done in vain. Keep the faith: the world’s salvation depends on it.

Gratefully,

Rev. Jason Wells
Executive Director

The Death Penalty and New Hampshire’s Opioid Crisis

Last week, the New Hampshire Senate voted 14-10 to repeal the death penalty. On Monday, the President came to New Hampshire to visit our Safe Stations but also to push for the death penalty for drug dealers. Today, Attorney General Sessions directed federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty for “drug-related cases.”

Pursuing the death penalty is wrong in general and remains wrong in this specific situation. Among all of our member denominations, we are in unanimous agreement that Christians should not support the death penalty, as stated in our Public Policy page. As Executive Director, I explained this agreement further when I testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 12.

In short, Christians believe that all human lives are sacred because they are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). No life is exempt from this, including drug dealers and those who do harm to others. The intentional taking of a human life is wrong.

The opioid crisis in New Hampshire is severe. Even so, Operation Granite Shield has made progress in apprehending offenders. Even so, leaders recognize that we cannot arrest our way out of the problem. If incarceration cannot be the only or even the primary tool of resolving the opioid crisis, then the death penalty never can.

(Because it is always wrong, the death penalty cannot be used for the good outcome of resolving the crisis. Christian thought for centuries has affirmed that one cannot do evil that good might result. That is, the ends do not justify the means.)

There are ways Christians in New Hampshire are already addressing the crisis in ways that are faith-based and that respect the dignity of human life. Here are a few:

  • Many churches recognize that Jesus has the power to redeem any life and on this basis lead or support rehabilitation, recovery and re-entry ministries.
  • Many churches recognize that their ministry in prisons, with ex-offenders and with women frequently serve the same at-risk population as direct-service rehabilitation programs.
  • Many churches, especially in Manchester, are partnering with their local fire stations for the successful Safe Station Program. Safe Stations allow addicts the ability to give up their drugs and paraphernalia, seek treatment and be offered amnesty in so doing. Churches have helped take people into recovery programs or even volunteer alongside the Fire Departments as their respond.

In his State of the State address, Governor Sununu said,

Like many states across the country, the opioid crisis in New Hampshire remains our state’s most serious challenge – one that demands great attention and proactive leadership.

Our mission to reverse the terrible effects of this epidemic rests on our ability as leaders to embrace a spirit of cooperation, innovation, and compassion when we craft the solutions to meet the needs of our families and neighbors.

As Christians we should be ready to explain our faith (1 Peter 3:15) by communicating our opposition to the death penalty, especially in relation to the opioid crisis. Then, we can act in the “spirit of cooperation, innovation and compassion” to uphold solutions of prevention, rehabilitation and amnesty that bring the good fruit of abundant life which is God’s gift.

Yours in faith,

Rev. Jason Wells, Executive Director