Click over to The Englewood Review of Books to read a poem on Easter by the 19th century British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Hopkins was virtually unknown as a poet in his lifetime but was rediscovered by the modernists as an innovator in verse form.
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Usually I write to encourage people to give to Relief but today I would like to pay tribute to a great person who fought for Truth. I came across this blog by Eric Metaxas and I wanted to share an excerpt from it. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a brilliant young pastor and a theologian, whose deep faith in God led him to get involved in the plot to kill Hitler. When Hitler learned of Bonhoeffer's involvement he flew into a typically violent rage. As one of his final acts of revenge -- just three weeks before he committed suicide -- Hitler condemned the young pastor to death. Bonhoeffer was hanged on April 9, 1945 at Flossenburg Concentration camp. But by all accounts, Bonhoeffer went to his death with the peace of God, with no regrets. How can that be? He was 39 years old, widely reckoned a theological genius. He had already written two of the classic books of the 20th century, "The Cost of Discipleship" and "Life Together." He was engaged to be married to a wonderful young woman. He had such a terrifically bright future! Bonhoeffer even had an opportunity to escape his fate. In my book I tell the story of how he had fled to America, but then decided to return to Germany, to face the horrors that lay ahead with his people. Why did he return when he didn't have to? And why didn't he have any regrets for doing so, even after he knew he would pay the ultimate price? Just before he died, Bonhoeffer told a fellow prisoner, "This is the end. But for me, the beginning of life." But on that day -- April 20, 1945 (Hitlar’s last birthday mentioned earlier in the original post)-- who was happy and who was at peace, Hitler or Bonhoeffer? For that matter, which of them is happy and at peace today? It's something chilling to think about, the contrast between these two Germans, between these two lives and these two deaths. But at this time of year especially, it's appropriate that perhaps we do think about it. But at this time of year, when Passover and Easter are being celebrated it's especially appropriate that we do think about it. Do those of us who say we believe in God really believe it? Because if we do, it will affect how we behave today, this week, this month... If we believe in the word of God, as Bonhoeffer did, it will give us the courage do the right thing wherever we are. Like Bonhoeffer, we will do the right thing and trust God with the consequences. Faith and courage go together. Bonhoeffer's faith gave him the courage to stand against the greatest evil of the 20th century. And today we celebrate him and revile the inhuman tyrant he stood against. So this Easter season, dare to think about what you really believe. What you believe about your faith will affect how you behave today and how people regard you years from today. That's a fact. Let the life of Bonhoeffer, lived in faith and without fear, be a source of encouragement to you, so that your life in turn may be a source of encouragement to others in years to come.
I agree with Metaxas call to think about what you believe. Do you really believe in the truth and power of scripture? What would your life look like if you did? What do your actions show that you believe in – yourself or the Truth of God? I think that Easter is a time that we should reflect on our faith since it is the time when the curtain separating the Holy of Holies was torn in two giving us the opportunity to approach the throne of God with confidence and covered by his grace.
Bonnie Ponce is the Director of Support Raising for Relief and lives in Huntsville, Texas with her husband and betta fish. She has a BA in English from Sam Houston State University. After work she enjoys relaxing with a good book or working on her novel.
This month, we are approaching two national holidays. They happen to fall on the same day. But depending on your political, religious, liberal, conservative, radical, conventional standing, you may lean more towards one than the other, or even feel like you have to choose between the two.
Earth Day was instituted in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson, it was a political initiative, intended to enforce national environmental responsibility, and this new holiday birthed the modern environmental movement. Good Friday is annually observed by Christians to remember Christ’s crucifixion and death so many years ago. To the church, Good Friday, together with Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, is the culmination of history, fulfilling Scripture’s promises that a Savior would come into the world and redeem it.
This year April 22nd hosts both Earth Day and Good Friday, and to many people, these holidays may seem to be at odds with each other. In my experience, Christians are more interested in discipleship than reducing their carbon footprint. Female ministers and abortion can be hot topics, but global warming? Not so much. Likewise, the people who champion green living march under the banner of sustainability, health, and animal rights. Talk of soul-saving doesn’t really hold appeal, because in their mind, they’re already saving the planet.
It saddens me that anyone would think these two ideals have to be pitted against each other as if in a bull pen. Because in my perspective, both holidays have to do with wholeness. Whole earth, whole redemption, whole life.
Eden was once whole, a perfect earth, perfect creation, and perfect humanity. God called it, “very good.” But sin crept into this good garden and fragmented it, introducing thorns and dry soil, pain and pride—toxic to both our bodies and our souls.
Good Friday marks a turn in our decaying world. A man who was God sacrificed His life for the world, and this set into action a redemption that would work both backwards and forwards, pulling this broken earth and its broken people into a new heaven and new earth. One day, the effects of sin will be reversed, and the new heaven and earth will reign in renewed wholeness. Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday set all of this into motion.
Scripture says that creation is in bondage just as are the children of God. “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23).
This April 22nd, let’s groan and wait together, the earth and God’s children, the created crying out to our Creator.
Stephanie S. Smith graduated from Moody Bible Institute with a degree in Communications and Women’s Ministry, which she now puts to work freelancing as a book publicist and writer through her business, (In)dialogue Communications, at www.stephaniessmith.com. After living in Chicago for four years, traveling to Amsterdam for a spell, and then moving back home to Baltimore to plan a wedding, she now lives with her husband in Upstate New York where they make novice attempts at home renovation in their 1930s bungalow. She writes for www.startmarriageright.com and manages Moody Publishers’ blog, www.insidepages.net.
In our American culture of drive-through coffee, instant Twitter feeds, and video on demand, we prize immediacy. We like to check our email on our touchscreen phone as soon as it hits our inbox, grab lunch to-go, and download live-streaming news. We are a nation of busy professionals, parents, and students living under the banner of “carpe diem,” driven by the idea that there’s no time like the present.
This “now” syndrome certainly has advantages, motivating us to work hard and invest fully in whatever we’re doing, but what happens when we apply our instant-culture values to spirituality?
Last month, I had a bizarre experience with communion that made me consider this question. After months of exhausting church-searching, my husband and I finally found a church where we wanted to stay. It’s a contemporary kind of church, the kind that has a graphic designer on staff and a coffee bar out in the hall, and we came because we like the teaching and the small groups. But you have to understand, the church we went to before we moved was a liturgical church, the kind with Kierkegaard quotes in every other sermon and weekly communion. So we knew we’d have to make some adjustments at our new church.
But this is what I did not expect: communion that is served before the service, an addendum tacked onto and separate from the worship service. So we set our alarms a little earlier, entered the sanctuary, and found only a fraction of the congregation had shown up. The pastor said a prayer for this handful of early-risers, and at his invitation we filed up front and received the elements, and then it was over. The whole ordeal took literally five minutes. There was no time of confession before receiving the sacrament. There was no benediction afterwards, charging us to go forth bearing Christ into the world. There was no community, only a faithful few. There was no ritual, no careful unfolding of holiness.
It was like grabbing Christ’s blood of the covenant, His outpouring for the world, in a Styrofoam to-go cup. It was a sacrament dictated by convenience, quickly squeezed in between other items on the agenda, and left out of the greater context of cosmic redemption.
The problem with an instant culture, and an instant church, is that a preoccupation with the present diminishes our ability to see seasons, to see story, to observe the unfolding of time. This is the pivotal idea of the sacrament of communion: Christ asks us to remember Him by taking the bread and wine (Luke 22:19), and to anticipate the future when we will eat and drink with Him face to face (Matt. 26:29).
As we now enter the season of Lent, we enter a time of waiting. There is no immediacy or convenience here. But there is a story of cosmic proportions unfolding, as we take the forty days of Lent to remember, to walk through the events of the life of Christ: the temptation in the desert, the agony of Good Friday, the silence and sorrow of Holy Saturday, and the joyful victory of Sunday morning.
It is often difficult for us to lay down our gadgets and agendas to just sit for a while, quiet our souls, and dwell with God. And yet, He laid down everything for us, making Himself “nothing” and emptying Himself to the point of death (Phil. 2:7-98). In his beautiful poem “Seven Stanzas at Easter,” John Updike writes of the agony of the cross, “Let us not seek to make it less monstrous, for our own convenience...” As we cross the threshold of Ash Wednesday, let us reflect sincerely and sorrowfully on Christ’s suffering for us, so that on Easter morning, our hearts will grasp the incredible joy in His resurrection.
Stephanie S. Smith graduated from Moody Bible Institute with a degree in Communications and Women’s Ministry, which she now puts to work freelancing as a book publicist and writer through her business, (In)dialogue Communications, at www.stephaniessmith.com. After living in Chicago for four years, traveling to Amsterdam for a spell, and then moving back home to Baltimore to plan a wedding, she now lives with her husband in Upstate New York where they make novice attempts at home renovation in their 1930s bungalow. She writes for www.startmarriageright.com and manages Moody Publishers' blog, www.insidepages.net.
Stephen Swanson brings you some pictures from his recent trip to Easter Central, Target.
Is there anything stronger than "WTF?" as an interrogative?
We've all known that Easter is not really a Christian holiday and, in some ways, never was. However, I'm unsure of the Christian or Pagan importance of the Transformer, Spider-Man, and Spongebob "eggs" or the Batman play-set.