“Do not be afraid, I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One, I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever” (Rev.1.17,18).
Saint John heard these words during a time of deep persecution of the church, as Christians had been tossed to wild beasts and set on fire for the entertainment of the population, scriptures were being sought by soldiers and destroyed, along with those who would seek to hide them. The church, despite deep trial and struggle to the point of blood, did not die any more than the Lord of the Church. Despite pain, suffering, despair, losses and burdens, the word of God to his people from Genesis to Revelation has been most frequently, “Do not be afraid.”
Many American churches are losing members, Christians are mocked, holiness is viewed as hypocrisy and love is mere sentimentality. Christ followers in the USA sometimes feel weak and despairing. Stop it! We are a people of HOPE!
Christians are people of hope, not denying that the ‘faithful’ or anyone else should ever suffer. Christians are people of hope because the author of hope is He who parted oceans and raised the dead and is the center of reality. The pain and suffering which occurs to all mortal flesh is not the final word, nor even the present word. The present word is Emmanuel; God with us, even God who has suffered with us. The present hope is transformation from inglorious to glorious, spiteful to compassionate, loneliness to community, impoverished to generous, mortal to immortality. We see that every day! How can any believer lose hope?
The Lord of the Church is the Living One. He was dead. All looked grim. God appeared, as Pope Benedict recently stated in his final address to the church, to be asleep. But the author of life itself arose from death and is alive, confirming to those who believe that the true story of the world, of our lives, including our pain and loss, is one of victory and life.
The stuff of the cosmos, quarks, bosons, hadrons, strong and weak forces, were birthed through the eternal mind and unimaginable power of one who IS love itself, LIFE itself. There is reason to celebrate every day – especially during the Easter Season. Do not be afraid, be the people of HOPE.