Three Dates to Note
On March 23, we celebrate Easter, the most holy day of the Christian year. While the average American (and maybe even more than a few church-goers) thinks of “Christmas” as “The BIG Day” for the Christian calendar, Easter is the high point of the Christian way of reckoning time.
A favorite story involves an American chaplain observing a Russian Orthodox Easter Vigil service. The priests are conducting the liturgy while running back behind the altar area and putting on stoles for every color of the Christian year (Pentecostal reds, Common Time greens, Advent and Lenten purples, and yes, even the brilliant whites of Easter). It was a hectic experience for the priest and his helper, trying to make sure that they got all the colors in the correct order! Nonetheless, the majestic liturgy heralded the proclamation of Easter: the promise of new life and New Creation found in Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
As a people who celebrate the fullness of Easter, with its promise of resurrection resounding in our souls and in our pews, we remember anew that God is calling us to spread the Easter faith. It might be a hard sell when thoughts turn to how full the sanctuary was a generation or two ago on Easter, but we are not a people of despair. We are a people called to herald the liberating and daring news of the gospel.
Another observance in March—This month American Baptists will participate in the annual “America for Christ” offering, which supports the “home mission” work of our ABC/USA family. By “home mission”, we mean “ministry in the United States and Puerto Rico”. More to the point, we American Baptists recognize that “home mission” happens right on our own doorstep!
Our support of the America for Christ offering ensures that the work of National Ministries in Valley Forge and the work of our ABC Vermont/New Hampshire region receives funding for bringing about programming, ministries, mission, publications, education, and personnel that is geared toward serving the fullness of the Gospel message.
NM’s executive director, the Rev. Dr. Aidsand Wright-Riggins, III, writes, “It often surprises me that the United States is the third largest mission field on our planet. We have millions of people right here, on the doorsteps of our churches, our homes, our schools, who have deep hunger—and not just for food or education or a warm bed, but also for comfort, hope, and the assurance that someone, somewhere cares.” This is an Easter faith at work!
In March 2008, we mark a third date. March 1 begins my third year as your intentional interim minister. I could look back and give the play-by-play of the last two years, but the prospect of Easter asks me to say instead, “Will this be the year when we start heralding the gospel in a new and astonishing way? Will this be the year that we start to move from the pews and out to our doorstep to discover ‘home mission’ opportunities abound?”
This past month, we learned a lot about our community through hosting a well-attended and appreciated community conflict transformation conference and through our engagement with PAVE’s executive director sharing from the pulpit on a Sunday morning. There is conflict, violence, economic hardship, and many persons with “deep hunger” right on our doorstep! We could settle for ignoring that troubling in our souls that this knowledge causes or pains us, but we are an Easter people!
The Rev. Jerrod H. Hugenot