(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.
Rev. Jason Wells