Words from the Pastor
Finally, it’s over! We’re through! It’s done! It is finished! Heard in some homes, when families return after the annual church service and family celebration of Easter. Calls from parents to put away all the chocolate bunny rabbits, jelly beans, toys, and that green plastic grass that seems to have a life of its own as it sprouts out of carpets, couches, hardwood floors, and kitchen tile. No more invitations to attend extra worship services, egg hunts or family dinners. Finally, life can return to normal, and we can just get on with it. Or can we? Can we really “just get back to normal?”
This familial cry for a return to the routine is heard whenever that routine is upset whether for weddings, funerals, birthdays, changes in the school schedules, family emergencies, or ________________ (you fill in the blank). Very often, it is an anguished cry to return to the smooth waters of the everyday routine, and not wanting to face the rising tide of change or the crashing waves of grief or despair, we hunger for that which is most familiar.
In our Wednesday noon study of Erwin Lutzer’s book, Cries from the Cross, we have considered the seven last words of Christ from the cross, and the second to the last is Tetelestai (Greek) which comes from the verb teleo, which means “to bring to an end, to complete, to accomplish.” As Lutzer puts it, “(i)t signifies a successful end to a particular course of action.” Lutzer asks “what was finished,” and says we should not limit the word, tetelestai, to only one part of Christ’s mission, but rather it should be viewed as “fulfillment of God’s grand plan of salvation.” Jesus had finished what He set out to do.
Whenever there is a death in the family, there is grief. There is sadness. There is a gripping sense of loss and lack of control. There can be joy, and there can even be celebration as the memories of the deceased’s life unfold with family and friends. I’m sure you would agree that eventually there is a desire for everything to just go back to normal. You hear a key in the door, and look up expecting your loved one to walk through the door. The phone rings, and you pick it up with the expectation your loved one will be on the other end telling you they’ll be home shortly. Alas, that is not what happens. What was normal will never return. From this point forward it will always be different. There is a new current in the water. There is a new breeze blowing from a different direction. Slowly, it will dawn on you that you are entering a “new normal.”
Faced with the reality of death, a choice has to be made. You can fruitlessly try to grasp a past which no longer exists – stuck in the past like Ms. Havisham in Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations – and eventually disappear into oblivion or you can embrace the “new normal” complete with its feelings of loss and pain, curiosity, and begin to explore what it will mean for you. You must choose.
As people who declare ourselves to be Christians, we too must make a choice. We must choose. The Son of God, Jesus the Christ, died on a Roman cross bearing the sins of the world, and before His last declarative act, Jesus cried out, Tetelestai – it is finished! His task in the heavenly plan of salvation was completed. The gift of salvation comes through the death that was Christ’s. It is this “new normal” celebrated at Easter, which affirms for us that there is nothing we can do to warrant the gift of salvation from God other than to receive the gift of Jesus. It is through Him that we have the gift of eternal life.
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (NRSV) Death requires a choice. My prayer is that you would receive the free gift that is Jesus Christ, and that you would live the abundant life in Him to which He calls His children. Having done that, come join us in the journey of faith.