My farmer’s blood boils at this time of the year. I grew up on a wheat-farm in southwestern SK, and we usually started seeding the last week of April. Of course, classes were still in session, so I missed out on a lot of the action. But happily, I was able to experience more seeding later, as a Bible college and seminary student. For three consecutive springs I worked for a farmer near Mortlach, SK. I miss those days! The sounds and smells of spring. The long hours in the tractor. The sense of accomplishment when a field was seeded. And the satisfaction when the plants started to grow. For a short time I considered farming. But in the end I felt called to plant different seeds. I didn’t realize at the time that my dad was praying that some of his boys would become pastors or missionaries, not farmers. And two of us are pastors today. There are a lot of similarities between farming and pastoring. A farmer plants seeds like wheat or canola. I plant the seed of God’s Word. A farmer works with various soils. I work with various types of people. A farmer nurtures the growing plants. I nurture people’s souls. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus’ teachings about soil and plants (for example, Luke 8 and John 15) resonate with my heart. My calling as pastor is to plant the seeds of the gospel and nurture the gospel plant that is growing in people. In other words, to make disciples of Christ. Please continue to pray for me and all pastors as we fulfill our calling, perhaps especially during the season of Easter, when we are planting many gospel “seeds.” And while you’re at it, please pray for farmers, as they plant many physical seeds in the soil of their fields and gardens.
I’m currently reading The Story of Christianity (Revised and Updated Edition), by Justo L. Gonzalez (HarperOne, 2010). I forgot how much I enjoy church history! As I read about the Early Church, I’m reminded of the importance they placed on Easter. The Jews gathered for worship on the Sabbath Day (Saturday), in honor of the day God rested after creation. But after Jesus’ resurrection, the Christians gathered for worship on the first day of the week (Sunday), in honor of Christ’s resurrection. And the tradition has continued for most Followers of Christ. Gonzalez observes the main purpose of this Sunday gathering was to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. And the primary way they did that was through the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. And because these early Communion services focused on the resurrection of Jesus, they were joyful occasions, not the somber Lord’s Supper services that many have grown up with. Actually, it was only after the Protestant Reformation of the Sixteenth Century that many churches began to focus their worship service on the preaching of the Word over Communion. I wanted to share this with you as we begin our Easter celebration. Easter is the moment we’ve been waiting for, the climax of the Christian year. So, how can we make it the grand celebration it’s supposed to be? N. T. Wright, in his book, Surprised by Hope (HarperOne, 2008), suggests that during the season of Easter, we pull out all the stops. Really celebrate. Also add new things to our lives as we celebrate new life in Christ. Practice the spiritual discipline of celebration. Jesus has risen! New life has begun. For this reason, I rejoice that we are conducting Alpha this Easter season. A great way to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord as we break bread together and become more devoted students of Christ. He has risen! . . .
This week I offer you a revised essay that I wrote on April 19, 2012:
I feel called to help others more fully experience the joy of the resurrection. I have found N. T. Wright a helpful guide in this regard. As he writes: “We should be taking steps to celebrate Easter in creative ways: in art, literature, children’s games, poetry, music, dance, festivals, bells, specialty concerts, anything that comes to mind” (Surprised by Hope [HarperOne, 2008], 256). So how are you intentionally celebrating Easter as the great festival that it’s supposed to be? As Wright says, “If Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. . . . The [fifty] days of the Easter season . . . ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving” (257). So what new thing do you feel called to take up at this time, to help make Easter the season of new life that it’s supposed to be? One thing I plan to do as pastor is reflect on God’s grace via a study of the Book of Exodus, which I’ll be preaching on this spring. Whatever the Lord is calling you do to, I pray he uses it to breathe new life into you. He has risen!
I’m pleased to report: the Palm Sunday service that we led last week was blessed. The members of the Alberta Flying Farmer’s Association were warm and welcoming, and we worshipped the Lord with gladness at the Red Deer Lodge. Palm/Passion Sunday is an important step in our Lenten journey, as it marks the beginning of Holy Week, when we take our final steps with Jesus to the cross. All of this leads, of course, to Good Friday and Easter, when we remember the death of our Lord and celebrate his resurrection. In preparation for this moment, I’ve pulled out one of my favorite books: Surprised by Hope, by N. T. Wright (HarperOne, 2008). Listen to what Wright says about Easter: “Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity, as Paul says, you are still in your sins. We shouldn’t allow the secular world, with its schedules and habits and parareligious events, it cute Easter bunnies, to blow us off course. This is our greatest day. We should put the flags out.” (p. 257) So we rightly sing our hearts out on Easter Sunday, and we continue to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord with feasting and play. I wish you all a happy Easter—all fifty days of it! May we all truly feel the joy of the resurrection this Easter season, and experience the new life that God intends for us—through Jesus Christ our Lord.