Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Don't Hold On

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned, and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).  Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the father...’”                                                                   -- John 20:16-17

 Dear members and friends of Atonement,

            It’s a moment that takes your breath away.  Mary hears her name spoken by the man she thinks is the gardener, and suddenly her mind clears and she sees that it is Jesus.  He is alive!  In her wildest dreams, she never dared to believe it could happen.  The man she’d followed for so long, the man who revealed God’s love to her and spoke heaven’s wisdom into her heart, the one she thought she had lost forever was right there, so close she could touch him.  And what did she want to do more than anything in that one moment?  Every fiber of her being must have told her to run to him, to throw her arms around him, to hold on to him and never let go.  But Jesus said no. 

            Jesus asks us to listen to him, to follow him, to trust him, and to love him.  These things are all hard enough, but perhaps the hardest thing he asks of us is to not hold on to him.  We are to cling to his Word and his promises, but not to Christ himself, for He has ascended to the Father, and now comes to us in many ways… He comes in works of love and healing, He comes in, with, and under the holy sacraments, He comes through the wisdom of the scriptures, He comes in deeds of peace and hope, He comes when two or more gather in His name, he comes in and through our prayers, He comes in humble and believing hearts that seek his mercy and desire to share his love.  Through all of these He comes, He who spoke our name at baptism, and when we finally recognize that firm and fair voice and realize that our Master, Redeemer, Savior and Friend has been calling out to us all this time, our hearts burn with Easter joy.

            The Easter season reminds us that we are not to hold on to the things of this world.  The anger and hatred we hold for others, the guilt and shame that keeps us from seeing God’s love for us, the regret and longing for a past that is long gone, the ideologies and prejudices which put more value on one kind of person than another, all of these things belong in the tomb, buried with the crucified and broken body of the One who died for us.  But now, that One is risen.  He said to Mary, “…go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God…” (John 20:18).

            The risen Jesus calls us to new life, and to recognize that our destiny is in heaven with Him.  This new life is a letting go of the old, a setting of our spiritual sights on our true eternal home.  Our life in the church looks forward to this everlasting life he gives.  Together we prepare for heaven by learning to let go, to find ways of loving unselfishly, to give graciously in response to His giving himself to us.  We love because God first loved us (1John 4:19), and we give because God first gave His Son for the life of the world (1 John 5:11). 

            Your giving to Atonement this year enables us to bring the Word of hope into the lives of those who gather with us Sunday mornings, but also to bring prayer to those who come for drive-in prayers on Fridays.  It will allow us to provide concentrated caring ministry through the Stephen Ministry program, to bring food to over 1000 local families through the food bank, to reach our Hispanic neighbors with the hope of the Gospel, to continue men’s and women’s Bible studies and children’s Sunday school, to give a home to community support groups and Scout groups, to provide a website with Live Streaming for our shut-ins and sign language translations of sermons for the hearing impaired.  The risen Jesus calls to us in countless ways at Atonement as we worship, serve, and share the life He gives. 

            Our Lord is risen indeed!  This and every Sunday He comes in Word and sacrament, speaking your name and calling you to follow Him to new life.  Thank you for hearing God’s call and sharing His love through your generous tithes and offerings.  Come join your church family this Easter as we celebrate the resurrection and receive the light, life and joy that this world cannot give.

Pastor Scott