By Pastor Dan Christian
It is tempting for us as Christians to rush past the bloody, God-forsaken death of Good Friday in order to get to the celebration and hope of Easter Sunday. We rightly rejoice in the resurrection as the foundation of our hope and life in Christ, but in doing so we perhaps pass over the rather obvious reality that resurrection is not possible unless death has first occurred. And we forget what it must have been like for the friends and followers of Jesus on that Saturday in between His death and His resurrection.
Despite Jesus’ many promises to His disciples that He would die and then rise again, when that cruel crucifixion was completed and Christ’s lifeless body was placed in a borrowed tomb, His disciples and friends could not see beyond their despair. They could not see what we see through the lens of history—that resurrection was coming, their Lord would walk and talk with them again, and all would be well.
From our vantage point, we look at the Gospel narrative and see only one day between the death on Good Friday and the resurrection early Sunday morning—and one day seems like a really short time to wait. But for those who followed Jesus at that time, one day without their Friend and Master probably felt like an eternity. And from their vantage point, that one day was going to bleed into a second day, then into a third, and on into a week, a month, a year, and so on. Hope was buried as surely as their Savior was in that tomb. Thus resurrection came as a surprise—a joyful surprise, definitely, but still unexpected.
For us too, as surely as Jesus’ first followers, death shakes us to the core. Loss and grief and change rattle us. Resurrection still surprises. Yet in Christ’s death and resurrection we have received not only a sure salvation and hope, but also a pattern of what our life in Christ will look like (Romans 6:1-8). We also are called to die, day by day (Luke 9:23-24). God also will bring resurrection out of our death and loss (Philippians 3:10-11). And there also will be difficult days of waiting in between the many deaths and resurrections that God brings us through (Romans 8:23-25). Death must precede resurrection. That is the pattern.
Knowing—and remembering—that pattern of life to death to resurrection is crucial whenever we walk through a season of change. Change inevitably brings “death” or loss. Something we have known, enjoyed, even counted on, comes to an end, and something new and unknown is about to begin. Some changes are small and insignificant, but other changes can shake us to the core. And in the loss that change brings, even if we trust that God will bring “resurrection,” the in-between time of waiting can feel like an eternity.
If we as a church are to maintain perspective as we face the very significant loss not only of something but of someone who has brought stability and strength and wisdom (and so much more) to our church—and in many cases, to our lives personally—we must remember the pattern of Christ:
Death is a necessary part of the process.
Resurrection will come.
In between there is waiting.
Thus there is no shame in acknowledging and mourning the loss that comes with Pastor Cory’s retirement. This change is a kind of death. And death is part of the pattern.
At the same time, we need not slip into a hopeless despair at Pastor Cory’s departure. Why? Because death is part of the pattern—a necessary prelude to resurrection.
Thus also there is no shame—or disrespect—in anticipating the new things God will bring through this change in our church. Resurrection will come. That is part of the pattern also. God has new life in store for us, new life that would not come apart from the loss of this change.
And in between it’s likely to be hard for awhile. That’s part of the pattern. God brings resurrection—we don’t. Therefore we don’t know when that resurrection will come. We don’t know what that resurrection will look like. We wait, and we hope…but it’s hard.
We have a perspective that Jesus’ first followers did not have. We can see the pattern that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection set for us. So if we are to maintain perspective in this season of transition, we need to remind ourselves that death and loss are not the end, but resurrection is coming. Like the disciples, we do not know when that resurrection will come, but we can hold on to the perspective that it will come. That is the pattern.