Dear Immanuel Church Family and Friends,
This Church Year has breezed by so quickly. It’s hard to believe we are already almost to Holy Week.
We began this church year at Advent by reflecting on the words of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.
Immediately following Christmas celebrations, we moved into Epiphany and began to reflect seriously on Jesus’ seven “I Am” sayings in the Gospel of John. I hope this reflection on who Jesus is for us and for the world has been meaningful to you. I know it has for me.
One of the most helpful resources in my study of the “I Am” sayings was Rob Fuquay’s The God We Can Know. In the final paragraph of his book he demonstrates how we may come to know God more by faithfully reflecting upon the “I Am” sayings:
The more we know the one who said, “I am the Bread of Life,” the greater satisfaction and joy we have. The more we know the one who said, “I am the Good Shepherd,” the greater our security and confidence. The more we know the one who said, “I am the Light of the World,” the more we experience God’s guidance and direction. The more we know the one who said, “I am the True Vine,” the more connected we are to God’s power. The more we know the one who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” the more we walk a pattern for living that gives peace and hope. The more we know the one who said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” the more we discover God’s possibilities for living.
Now we come to the most difficult time in the church year. Our Lenten journey concludes by bringing us into Holy Week, where we move from the joyous celebration of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, only to descend into the depths of human darkness and depravity, as Jesus is betrayed, arrested, abused, convicted, and crucified.
As strange as it may seem on the surface, the Good News of Christ’s resurrection is understood only by placing it against the dark backdrop of his Passion and his Cross. Again, Fuquay brings insight on the importance of the whole of Holy Week:
Resurrection, the miracle of new possibilities, doesn’t occur without death. We are tempted to bypass the unpleasantness of Holy Week. It’s just more appealing to go from waving branches Palm Sunday to shouting “He is risen!” on Easter morning. After all, it’s depressing to sit through dark services recounting the betrayal, suffering, and crucifixion of Jesus. It’s nice to go from exaltation to exaltation, but life doesn’t work that way. There are interruptions to joy. Heartaches happen. Easter occurs not in spite of death but because of it. Christian faith offers hope because it faces death squarely and moves through it, not around it. It means that pain, disappointment, and heartache are not final realities.
No matter what this sinful world throws against Jesus, Jesus is proved the Victor. By the will of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus rises from the dead! Thank God that the horrors of Passion week are followed by Easter hallelujahs. Otherwise, there would be no Good News at all.
This living hope brings Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love (Advent words). The Risen One is truly the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Gate of the Sheep, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way the Truth and the Life, God’s True Vine.
I hope that you will be able to participate in some or all of our services as we remember our Lord’s Passion and rejoice in our Lord’s Salvation. My heartfelt prayer is that you would be touched by God in and through this holy season!
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Rich Vincent