An Easter Message from the National Council of Churches
Is it nothing to you, all who pass by?
The phrase is from the Hebrew scriptures -- Lamentations 1:12 -- but for many Christians, it's an Easter provocation. A Lutheran church in Pottstown, Pa., places a crude wooden cross on its front lawn on one of the borough's busiest streets, and drapes it with a pointed question: "Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?"
Persons passing by must think of the question as a rebuke, insinuating that for many of us, the true meaning of Easter is lost amid stacks of candy and hats and other finery.
The truth is, it's not an easy question to hear. As the world's 2 billion Christians enter the holiest time of their year, the contrast between what many believe and what they do can be upsetting.
In simple terms, this is the story. "God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16). "God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8). God "has anointed me," Jesus said in the midst of his earthly ministry that led up to his Easter sacrifice, "to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19).
That's the good news.
The bad news is that God's intervention in human history seems to have lost its power in many human hearts. The lilt of Easter joy is hard to hear amid the din of sin.
As we prepare to celebrate the victory of the Prince of Peace over death and decay, human violence is as rife as at any time in our history. Peaceful revolutions against oppressive regimes in Northern Africa are collapsing into bloody civil wars. Autocrats on the continent of Africa, some of them professed Christians, use torture, murder and rape against their opponents. Drug cartels in the Americas show utter contempt for human life as they assault law enforcement officers and market their poisons. Belligerence and horrific violence replace peace talks between the Palestinian Authority in Israel.
Here in the United States, the debate over the national budget has ignored the most vulnerable members of our society -- millions of the working poor, the homeless, children, and disabled persons -- while political leaders of both parties jockey for tactical advantages as if they were more interested in pursuing power and office than a balanced budget. Incessant gun violence continues to take thousands of lives and injures tens of thousands more.
Given this background, the common prayer of the 37 member communions of the National Council of Churches is this: that the true and complete meaning of Easter be visited upon us all. May peace be restored in human hearts and on battlegrounds around the world. May the poor hear God's good news. May those who live in oppressive lands experience God's justice and freedom. May the blind and uninformed see God's truth. And may God's economic justice be experienced by all.
"Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?"
This Easter, may the message of the cross change hearts and lives forever.
The Lord is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed.
Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.