For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38)
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
On the Monday after Easter, all of God’s Christian children went back to our ‘normal.’
I prayed for a more relevant message about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.Until this time next year, the fasting for lent is over; Ash Wednesday is over; Easter baskets sold at full price are over; the Good Friday Seven Last words of the Cross service is over; the fattening after church dinner and Easter egg hunt is over; And the Resurrection Sunday sermon is over– the same sermon that is given year after year in church after church.
As I sat listening to the Resurrection Sermon this past Sunday, with three teenagers, (two daughters and a neighbor who lives with us) sitting next to me– all suffering from some form of depression, anxiety and anger– I prayed for a more relevant message about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
…whose life resounded with a poignant message of love, power and hope to address all they were going through in their livesI hoped for a message that transformed Jesus from this suffering white dude on the cross to the loving and all powerful darker middle eastern Jewish man, (a more accurate depiction in fact) whose life resounded with a poignant message of love, power and hope to address all they were going through in their lives.
My deepest prayer is that right now Pastors talk about making their actions and words more relatable, relevant and accessible to this generation– the one that no longer packs their churches.
Pastors can light the flame of passion of this generation by challenging them to be courageous, to be ‘in the spirit,’ or inspired to do what they can…I hope Pastors talk about how they will devote their time to more powerfully connecting the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to the needs of a deeply suffering, self-absorbed, technologically addicted, isolated, and lonely generation, on the one hand. And on the other hand, they are also an incredible generation– one that eschews hypocrisy, demands justice and lives unabashedly authentically in their own truth with little concern for what we old folks think.
Pastors can light the flame of passion of this generation by challenging them to be courageous, to be ‘in the spirit,’ or inspired to do what they can with what has been given to them by God. This can be done by lifting up the relevant Jesus, the courageous Jesus, the Powerful Jesus– the Jesus who was willingly murdered not only for our sins but also because he was about God’s business and not his own. He lived according to God’s will and not a laundry list of his own personal desires and wants.
…there will be resistance, backlash and sometimes violence unto death.And doing God’s will meant coming against the thief– the embodiment of all that steals the gift of the unique lives they were born to share; kills their dreams of inner peace and peace in our world; and destroys their unlimited and unrealized potential! Pastors have to let them know that Jesus lived, died and rose so that they can live abundant and fully committed lives to ideals bigger than themselves.
And finally, Pastors should tell this generation the truth– doing God’s will is what also got Jesus killed. Because of his infinite love for us he not only died for us, he lived for us. He was preoccupied with healing sickness and disease, (mental and physical) and stood up against the systems of oppression against women, minorities, outcasts, immigrants, the sick, the marginalized, and the poor.
(Jesus) continues to change hearts and consequently the world as we know it. Nothing could be more relevant than this.And just like in Jesus’s case, whenever we work to bring about radical healing and/or to change systems set up by powerful people for their own benefit, there will be resistance, backlash and sometimes violence unto death.
But Resurrection Sunday is proof that no one can keep love down – even the grave is not strong enough to hold back the most powerful force on earth. Jesus was and still is a powerful example for them to follow to live meaningful and loving lives. And they too have it within their power to take on the thief of their generation and win. Jesus did. He continues to change hearts and consequently the world as we know it. Nothing could be more relevant than this.
Sondra Samuels is the President and CEO of the Northside Achievement Zone – a collaborative of over 40 partner nonprofits and schools. Along with parents, students, partners, and staff, Sondra is leading a revolutionary culture shift in North Minneapolis focused on ending multigenerational poverty through education and family stability. The NAZ Collaborative is working toward a single goal—to prepare low-income North Minneapolis children to graduate from high school college- and career-ready.