In this time of fear during one of the holiest days of the year, we reached out to several local religious leaders who shared with us messages of Easter hope.
How do you feel on this Easter day? Are you greeting the day with great joy? Are you celebrating that God has moved in time to change the rules? Death has been conquered in a show of love. Today our joy cannot and should not be contained as we celebrate the new life that Christ’s resurrection has given us.
We are an Easter people, a forgiven people, a people loved beyond measure. Our vision goes beyond this world, but does not take us out of the world. We live in the world with all of its sin and death. Yet, we are able to sing joyfully with the Psalmist: “On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
We have heard the gospel of Jesus’ resurrection many times. We have a glimpse of the promises that come through our relationship with Jesus. Yet in the midst of this pandemic it is so easy to begin to despair. The world full of problems and this pandemic filled with various issues blind us to the joy that has always been ours. We wonder what has happened. We hear Our Lord’s words, but miss their meaning and the truth that Jesus is standing right in front of us.
Jesus tells us that he will never leave us nor forsake us, yet we can’t seem to hold on to Jesus’ presence when we feel alone. But, when we hear him calling our name, then that we can lay hold of the promised joy. Our Lord’s voice is not loud; rather it is soft and persistent. We must make the effort this Easter and every day to hear Jesus’ voice.
May your Easter be filled with Jesus’ voice. If you need words of hope, remember the words of the old hymn:
“And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share…
None other, has ever known.”
The Rev. Michael Fulk, Interim Vicar
St. Peter and St. Paul Episcopal Church
2310 N. Stewart Rd.
Mission, TX 78574
1 John 3:1 – “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”
Before the rainbow there is the storm, and before the birth, there are the birth pains. Every beautiful celebration starts with a dark sky that lingers over humanity. Such is the case with the celebration of Easter. Before we celebrate our wonderful salvation, and the freedom we have in Jesus Christ, we must first search the depth of our wretchedness. We cannot truly understand the depth of God’s love unless we first grasp how dark and murky our sin is.
Horrific and love don’t seem to match, but when we are dealing with the vileness of our sin, and a loving God that wants to rescue us, polar opposites connect. Such is the illustration found in the book of Hosea. It is horrific! It is repulsive! It is unthinkable!
Picture a sunken and wilted woman. She has given herself up over and over again to anyone who would have her, and now, no one wants her. The Word of God uses the words adulterous and whore to describe her. This is the scene in Hosea, Chapter 3. To depict the love of God, God asks Hosea to buy back his adulterous wife. Horrific! Repulsive! Unthinkable! Yet, this is the lavishing love expressed for you and I! God’s lavishing love does the repulsive and unthinkable to rescue the hopeless case.
Hosea, Chapter 3, depicts Israel’s vileness. They had acted the part of the harlot and chased after false gods. After all the love God had lavished on them, they had the gall to worship others. He rescued them from slavery. He delivered them from the hands of the Egyptians. He gave them a land flowing with milk and honey; yet, despite all this love, they betrayed him!
Before we throw a stone at the Israelites unfaithfulness, we must also remember, this is our state. Over and over again we have played the harlot. We have turned our back on God, and we have sinned. And yet in spite of our dark and murky sin, God came for us. He showed His love for us in the most horrific and selfless way. He bought us back in the bloodiest of manners. The cross is God’s love for you and I.
Romans 3:23-25 reads:
“23…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
“24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
“25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement (peace offering), through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.”
The celebration of Easter starts with a loving Savior dying for wretched sinners. This Easter, celebrate a Savior who did the unthinkable to rescue those He loved! This Easter, celebrate a Savior that went through the most repulsive of deaths to give us freedom! Celebrate the lavishing love of God!
Jeremiah 31:3 – “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.’”
The Cross depicts this everlasting love! This Easter, celebrate this most wonderful and amazing love!
Pastor John Mora
Conway Avenue Baptist Church
2215 North Conway
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia! On this morning, we celebrate the gift of the Resurrection, when Christ vanquished the powers of sin and death, making grace possible for the whole world. Today is normally a day filled with celebration – with lilies and egg hunts and cascarones – and we gather at church to celebrate baptisms and worship our Lord. But this year is different. This year our church doors are shuttered. This year, we are all hidden behind closed doors, praying that we might be spared from this pandemic that has taken hold of our world. Not unlike the first Easter, according to the Gospel of John.
For the disciples, that first Easter didn’t feel like a celebration, either. The disciples were hiding behind closed doors, terrified that the authorities would find them. Their friend and rabbi had been executed and buried in a borrowed tomb. They were lost and afraid of what the future might bring. I imagine we all might feel somewhat like those disciples – lost and afraid.
But this is not the end of the story! Suddenly, the risen Jesus burst into the room! He threw back the doors and entered the disciples’ lives once again, saying, “Peace be with you.” And then he breathed his Holy Spirit into them – God’s very breath of life.
Although we cannot gather in our church building, we are still the Church, filled with the powerful presence of the resurrected Christ. His Holy Spirit, breathed into us, empowers us to be witnesses to the Gospel, no matter the circumstance. Nothing can stop the power of the resurrection – not a crucifixion, not a burial, not even a pandemic – and it is through the resurrection that we find our hope and salvation. This is the Good News!
How I love you and miss you all, hermanos y hermanas. What an Easter celebration we will have when we gather in person for worship again. May the peace of the Risen Christ be with you all.
Your pastor and sister in Christ,
Rev. Amelia Beasley
El Mesías United Methodist Church
209 E. 6th St., Mission, TX 78572
During these days leading up to Easter there is a lot of turmoil and fear of the unknown. There are concerns about health, employment, and the economy as a whole. During these trying times it is difficult to hold on to hope and happiness.
Few things are as comforting as truth. Truth is that even though there is darkness in many areas the light of Jesus Christ shines brighter than the darkest day. He can speak truth to our hearts and minds as we seek Him and try to hear Him. The Apostle Paul foresaw our day and prophesied of these trying times. He said many would ever be learning but not able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Now more than ever we need to seek Him and take time every day to reflect on the blessings our Father in Heaven bestows upon us daily. As we do this we will be able to hear the still, small voice of the spirit comforting our souls and helping us find peace and assurance when so much seems in disarray.
The truth that Jesus Christ died for us and was resurrected the third day gives us the hope that through Him, we can overcome all things. He overcame all the pain and darkness we could ever face in this life that is why this Easter it is more important than ever to focus our thoughts on Him and celebrate His life and resurrection.
Hear Him this season!
Bishop Nicholas Wahrer
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
3107 Bryan Rd., Mission, TX 78574
We have traveled this Lenten Season with Jesus, seeking to be transformed from what we have made of ourselves, into what God has created us to be.
During this season, we have experienced the grief of death and burial in the tomb. First it was Lazarus, for whom Jesus grieved with Mary and Martha, before raising him to life. Now, this week, Holy Week, we walk with Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem, to the cross at Golgotha, and the tomb in the garden.
God understands our grief and our fear of the darkness of death. God, in Jesus, weeps with us, suffers with us, and dies for us. God understands the grief we experience in our own tombs of isolation during this time of Social Distancing and Shelter at Home during this COVID-19 epidemic.
As Jesus was entombed for us, so he is entombed with us at this time, comforting us when we call to him, weeping with us when we grieve in hunger for the closeness of community. God did not create us to be alone, but each of us is created to find our joy in community with others. We are hurting at this time because this isolation is not natural for us. It is not what we have been created to be and to do.
This season, we are in great need of resurrection hope. In the hope of the power of God over death in the resurrection of Lazarus, and in the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus on Easter Morning, may we find within us a vision of the resurrected hope of that day in the near future when we emerge from our tombs of isolation and return to community.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! And because He lives, so shall we rejoice in renewed hope and faith in the time to come, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Rev. Eric Dittman, Pastor
First Presbyterian Church
1102 Ash Drive, Mission, TX 78572
Fr. Roy’s Ramblings
Good Lord! Save your people! Lots of sad and troubled days and nights, hearts and minds in our old neighborhood!
What a mystery that the most profound and powerful events of our Faith, remembered and celebrated this Holy Week, would coincide with the terrible “corona crisis”!
We are saying now, as the first family of Faith did then, “We have never seen anything like this before!” We find ourselves repeating the prayer of Jesus’ sweet Momma at the beginning of the story and surely all through the story. “How can this be?!” The angel Gabriel didn’t really give her a lot of details, but he promised that “it’s gunna’ be good!” “The Spirit will come and God will save His people through this beautiful Child beneath your heart!!”
This Holy Week, especially Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, we pray, ponder and peer deeply, tenderly, terribly into the “Greatest story ever told.” We perceive, but not completely, the Life of Christ, the “Life Force” of Christ, alive and active in the stories of Mary and Joseph, Mary Magdalene, Peter, James and John and those first believers in the power of His love, conquering sin and death. In His story we can discover the Spirit of the Risen Christ alive and active in our stories. In our stories we can find Christ calling us! We remember fondly the Joyful mysteries of His life and of ours and we long for joyful things to come in the mystery of the future. We are shaken and sanctified by the Sorrowful Mysteries and attuned to the Glorious Mysteries!
I can remember as a little kid growing up on the edge of the Hill Country, suffering through tough (or at least “unpleasant”) times in school and hearing the call of the sweet whippoorwills singing on sultry Springtime nights, promising me that “Summer is coming and it’s gunna’ be good!” I heard a whippoorwill last week down on the Rio Grande. A rare treat and hearty blessing!
“As it was then, is now and ever shall be,” the Spirit that was at work in the hearts of Mary and the apostles in those tender terrifying days is at work in our hearts and families and “corona crisis” here and now! In the Sacred Sadness, the Energizing Emptiness, the Lusty Lonesomeness, He calls us, He invigorates our Faith, Hope, and Love. Lifted high on the cross, Christ calls out to God for us and with us “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me!” He dies for us. He embraces our broken, worried, wounded hearts. He saves us!
Peter, the old fisherman and first “Jefe” of the apostles, took it all real hard. They say you could see the tear stains on his face the rest of his life. Because of, not in spite of his noble, broken heart, he grew in a sincere and deep faith, hope, and love and he could say “…it may now be necessary for you to suffer all kinds of trials, purifying like fire tried gold, a robust and genuine faith in your hearts!”(I Peter 1:7)
Hank Williams said it and sang it so well! “Hear that lonesome whippoorwill. He sounds too blue to fly…. The silence of a falling star lights up the purple sky and as I wonder where you are, I’m, so lonesome I could cry!”
We listen to the whippoorwill! We listen to that same Spirit of the Life Force of Risen Christ echoing in our lonesome hearts! He calls us! He loves us! He saves us and, from the depths of our blessed and broken hearts, we can say to each other and hear from each other, “We’re gunna’ survive and thrive!”
Happy Easter! ¡Feliz Dia de Pascua! God bless all our hearts and lungs!
Father Roy Snipes, OMI
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church
620 N. Dunlap Ave., Mission, TX 78572
How God Answers the Question “Why?”
So far in our look at comforting facts for difficult times we have noted that, 1) God is sovereign – He knows what He is doing, and 2) even if God explained His plan, we wouldn’t comprehend it. When life is difficult we cry out to the LORD, “Why?!?” How does God answer?
When the LORD spoke from the burning bush He told Moses that He wanted him to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. Moses questioned God’s choice to send him to Egypt, in essence saying, “Why me? I can’t even right speak!” The LORD attempts to change Moses’ focus when He says to Moses, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” (Exodus 4:11, ESV) Faith is not to be placed in oneself or one’s abilities, but instead in the LORD who directs us to act. God answers questions of “why?” with a “Who.”
Job suffered greatly. But why? From the Devil’s viewpoint Job suffered because he was righteous. From the perspective of Job’s friends he suffered because they thought he had sinned. When God finally answers Job directly He never says why Job suffered. He answered with a “Who.” The LORD asked Job a series of questions such as “Did you make…? Do you know…? Have you…?” All of these questions are to help Job see that it is the LORD who has directed the events of his life.
Then Job answered the LORD and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. [Then Job quotes God’s earlier question to him] ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. [Again Job quotes God’s earlier demand of him] ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1–6, ESV)
Job realized that all he said and questioned was from a perspective of ignorance. Now that he understands better WHO God is, he despises his arrogance and places his trust completely in God. God answers questions of “why” with a “who.” It takes faith to trust Him, but it is faith that pleases Him (see Hebrews 11:6).
God is completely trustworthy in all that He does, no matter how it may seem in the moment.
Further reading: Exodus 3-4:20; Job 38-39; Psalm 24; Hebrews 11:6
David Harris is the Senior Pastor at Faith Baptist Church. A former programmer, in his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife Kim and trying his hand at the illusive craft of smoking meat.