Aloha Hope Honolulu!
As Easter falls on the first Sunday of April this year, and since we’ve already spent so much time and space talking and writing about the COVID-19 pandemic, please allow me to turn our attention away from the pandemic and towards Easter instead.
The Meaning of the Cross
Just as Christian funerals tend to be celebrations of life eternal as much as times of grieving and consoling one another’s loss, most Easter Sunday sermons focus on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and what His resurrection evidences for those who believe. However, just as the resurrection of Jesus Christ is more than a promise of eternal life, the Cross of Christ is more than just the source of forgiveness from sin.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)—a German pastor and theologian martyred by order of Adolf Hitler near the end of WWII—shared this amazing insight into the significance of the Cross in his famous book entitled Ethics:
“In the cross of Christ God confronts the successful man with the sanctification of pain, sorrow, humility, failure, poverty, loneliness and despair. That does not mean that all this has a value in itself, but it receives its sanctification from the love of God, the love which takes all this upon itself as its just reward. God’s acceptance of the cross is his judgement upon the successful man. But the unsuccessful man must recognize that what enables him to stand before God is not his lack of success as such, not his position as a pariah, but solely the willing acceptance of the sentence passed on him [i.e., in Christ] by the divine love.”
(quoted from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics, Eng. trans. London: SCM, 1955, pp.15-16)
Bonhoeffer recognized that in the act of God becoming man, and through God’s willingness to be completely identified with the creature He had originally made in His own image and likeness, God not only humbles Himself in an unfathomable manner, but also elevates the condition of the average man, woman and child by having become a poor laborer with little formal education, raised by a single mother in small town from which nothing good was expected to come (John 1:46).
God did not think it necessary to reveal Himself as some kind of demigod or superhero wearing a cape in order to deliver mankind from sin, sickness and death. God loves and is pleased to dwell with the most common and ordinary man, woman and child and call such to become not merely His servants but His friends, too. We don’t have to discover the right formula, live the perfect lifestyle or somehow attain superhuman power through religious postures or sacrifices to become like Christ. Christ became like you and me, died to remove the barriers of sin, sickness and death, and rose again to both make us God’s children once more and to make us living temples for God’s Holy Spirit. This means that God loves and values real men, women and children like you and me.
Although the Cross and its message may continue to seem foolish in the eyes of the powerful, privileged and positioned of this world, the Cross and its message continues to be the gate of righteousness for all who would enter on God’s terms. What are His terms? Believe in Jesus Christ, be baptized, learn His ways and then go, baptize and teach others about the Person and Message of Jesus Christ wherever it is that God has determined that you might live, learn, work and play.
Are You Watching and Praying for Tier (4) Four?
Here are our recommendations for Tier (3) Three and what’s going on behind the scenes to prepare for Tier (4) Four:
a) Aside from adding monthly communion to our live celebrations (4th Sundays), no other changes are planned for our live or online celebrations.
b) Caution is urged for live MiniChurch gatherings—let love for God and one another direct us into God's wisdom concerning timing and spacing.
c) Contingency plans are being put into place in case COVID numbers go back up, our teams have to quarantine, or in the event of a similar emergency like COVID-19 occurs.
d) We are researching whether it would be better for us to add an online component to our Live Celebration on Sunday mornings and/or add another Live Celebration gathering to increase attendance capacity.
- Pray for the leaders of our nation, state and city, in business, government and education, for the leaders in and around the Pacific, for the nations that your own ancestors have come from, asking God to grant them repentance unto salvation and wisdom and resource and courage for the problems they face not just in their work, but also in their own hearts and homes.
- Please offer up prayers of thanksgiving and blessing for new and incumbent members of our Church Council, Oversight Team, MiniChurch Pastors, our many volunteers without whom our in-person and online community and gatherings would be impossible. Please pray for our provision and protection as we prayerfully seek to follow God’s leading, wisdom, direction and resources!
- Please continue to pray for those nearly 60% of our local population who are unable to pay some or all of their bills, who are anxious about unexpected expenses, their health or that of their children, food, clothing and shelter, let alone education or entertainment. Please also pray for local business owners, their employees and their families! Please pray that they would seek and learn to trust in the God of heaven and earth in these difficult times!
- Please continue to send prayer requests and praise reports to firstname.lastname@example.org and, if you haven’t already, join our email Intercessory Prayer Team so that you can help support others in prayer and rejoice with them at God’s miraculous answers!
May this Easter remind you and me of God’s power, love and faithfulness, I pray in the Name of Jesus Christ!