FLEMING ISLAND – To many in the Christian tradition, Easter is the time to celebrate the beginning of spring, but to others, Easter is a day to remember deliverance and celebrate new life in …
FLEMING ISLAND – To many in the Christian tradition, Easter is the time to celebrate the beginning of spring, but to others, Easter is a day to remember deliverance and celebrate new life in Christ.
Pastor Jerry Nordiesk of Advent Lutheran Church on Loch Rane Boulevard near Orange Park said Easter is everything to him, especially this year after the recent deaths of three loved ones.
“My father died October 22nd. My precious wife, Carol, died November 3rd following a long battle with stage 4 cancer. My mother-in-law died four days later on November 7th. Because of Easter, I am able to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ in the midst of my grief, knowing my loved ones are at peace with our Lord. Because of Easter I can sing ‘I Will Rise’ and know, through my tears, that we will be reunited. Because of Easter, I know there is more to come (which is why I prefer a “comma” in place of a “dash” between the date of our birth and earthly death),” Nordsiek said.
According to Nordiesk, Jesus’ victory over death was an amazing feat for the world to behold.
“Easter is everything! Easter is the day God rocked our world and won salvation for all who believe. Easter is the foundation upon which our faith is built. And this faith isn’t based on an empty tomb - but rather - a living Savior who suffered and died for the sake of the world so that we might have eternal life. Easter is the day God transformed Good Friday grief into a joy that is everlasting. Joy that our world so desperately needs,” Nordiesk said.
Much like Nordiesk, Dr. Bobby Lewis Jr., senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Middleburg, said Easter 2017will carry him through a time of grief as he also lost a loved one – his father.
“Easter means hope beyond this world and a heavenly homecoming on the horizon for all who have a relationship with God by grace through faith in Christ alone. This current Easter season has even greater meaning for me as my Dad passed away just a few months ago,” Lewis said.
And just as the disciples met Christ on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection, Lewis said he has faith knowing he will see his father again in the future.
“Because he had trusted in Jesus as His personal Lord and Savior many years ago, I now have a perfect peace that I will see my earthly father again one day when my Heavenly Father calls me home. Death has been defeated and the grave has lost its sting. Fear has been conquered through faith in Christ. Even through the bitter pain of loss and temporary separation, Easter reminds me that death does not have the final word. Eternal and abundant life is available to everyone through Jesus – God’s perfect Son and our living Savior!” Lewis said.
And like the disciples who put down their worldly treasures and followed Jesus, Pastor Kevin Collison of Island View Baptist Church in Orange Park, said the concept of following Jesus is a key facet of Christianity.
“Easter is a big deal to followers of Jesus. In fact; it’s the whole reason Christians talk about ‘following’ Jesus instead of merely remembering him or being devoted to him. As strange as it seems to others, we really do believe Jesus is alive and we experience his ongoing presence as a surprising and undeserved gift. We follow Jesus because he is out ahead of us in the resurrection life God desires for the whole creation,” Collison said.
Many Christians view Easter as a time to begin again, much like how new flowers sprout in the springtime. Pastor Mark Hults of First Presbyterian Church of Green Cove Springs refers to this aspect as ‘a resetting.’
“On Easter Sunday, the church gathers across the world to retell our most sacred story – the story of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. As we hear this story, for the first time or the seventeenth or the seventieth, we readjust. We place renewed hope in the one that that defeated the greatest enemies. We shed more and more of the emphasis on ourselves. We let go of more of the valueless, trivial things that occupy our attention and refocus ourselves on God and God’s purposes in the world,” Hults said.
Hults said God uses the story of Easter as part of our transformation.
“I gather with that church, I tell and hear that story, I see and experience more of that transformation, and I leave in a better condition to be involved what God is doing locally and internationally. God resets us through the Easter story. That’s what Easter means to me,” Hults said.
Pastor Adam Smithyman of Freedom Destiny Church south of Orange Park said Jesus’ resurrection is the most significant human event the world has ever witnessed.
“Without the story of the Resurrection we have no hope of eternal life. He died, was buried and rose again so that all who believe in Him might live eternally with Him. It is so hard with our limited understanding to comprehend that the Creator of the Universe limited Himself from His deity to become a man even though He was still fully God. Jesus took on this assignment so that the dead things in our lives can stay buried and we can walk in newness of life,” Smithyman said.
Smithyman said because of the power of the Holy Spirit, we can start everyday fresh and new. “We should hunger and thirst for Him every day so that we can experience more of Him and this will overflow to family, friends, community and the world. He gave us newness of life and it is what all people want, to be fresh and clean and new every day. The resurrection makes it possible that we can know Jesus’ love personally and intimately and be reconciled to God so we can live eternally with Him and others who believe in His Son Jesus,” Smithyman said.
To Pastor John Diller of Orange Park Presbyterian Church, Easter itself is a breath of fresh air. “An appropriate metaphor considering the stale air inside a tomb, or so I imagine. When Jesus emerged from the tomb and offered the first words of greetings and mission (Matt. 28:9-10), he filled the earth with new breath; the earth may now speak of life that overcomes death,” Diller said.
Diller said earth longs to hear the words of life, especially where death was all that had been known before for so long.
“Our congregation is forging relationships with refugees in their mid-20's who have only known life in refugee camps. How stale was that air; how lifeless was their sense of hope? Now the children see life in their parents that they never saw before. I believe this is the air we were given to breathe. Once Jesus showed us the extent of God's love in his death and resurrection, we must be Easter people; we must witness to the fresh air of God’s love,” Diller said.