My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
A part of my Lenten discipline this year was to pray individually for each of our pastors and their ministry context. I have completed that part of my journey and was compelled to pass on what I hope will be a word of encouragement to each of you during the Easter Triduum.
All In to All Out!
The journey from Good Friday to Easter Sunday is a journey from being "all in" to "all out!"
Following the first playoff victory of the New York Giants this year, I heard an interview with one of the players on ESPN. The interviewer asked to what or to whom did he credit their win? After a brief pause he answered, "The team chaplain!" It was obvious the person from ESPN had no follow-up questions for that response. I investigated further and discovered that the team chaplain invited a guest speaker to address the team. His name was Jean Paul Gonzales.
Later that week I listened to an interview with Gonzales who was asked about his message to the team. He said his message was one about commitment. He said we live in a world where so many people want to play it safe and are content to stay on the sidelines, so if it doesn't work out the way they hoped, they can always say it didn't matter that much. Gonzales handed out poker chips and asked the team to put their name on one side and what they bring to the team on the other. Then he reminded them that they have been dealt a certain hand as individuals and as a team and they don't know exactly how it will all turn out. He said, "Some may be experiencing pain and injury, exhaustion at the end of a long season, personal struggles, relational issues, but you all have three choices, you can fold, wager a little, or go all in!"
He went on to talk about the example of Jesus as Savior who struggled in the Garden of Gethsemane with this decision and accepted the will of His Father to be "all in" for us. Through His complete love for us in His death on the cross and His glorious resurrection from the tomb, He has secured our redemption and salvation. Faith in Him frees us to live, not by protecting ourselves and avoiding commitment but by giving ourselves through complete commitment in fully utilizing all we have and are. This is the way to live our lives trusting God's love for us in Jesus. It is the way to live loving others that will make a profound difference in the world. It is the only way to experience the abundant life Jesus proclaims.
Following his presentation the Giants adopted their slogan for the rest of the year -- "all in." Perhaps you noticed those words on the towels their fans waved all the way to the Super Bowl. The far greater symbol for "all in" commitment is the cross. There is no more powerful symbol of the complete sacrificial gift of grace that Jesus offers for our redemption and salvation. His invitation to take up our cross is nothing less than His call to discipleship. Hold nothing back, go "all in," not for the sake of football, but for your spouse, your children, your family, your friends, your neighbor, for the unreached in this world, and above all for Christ and His body, the Church. The "all in" of the cross leads us to the "all out" of the empty tomb.
Take a few moments and read the Easter story in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28. The celebration of the Resurrection ends with Jesus setting the direction for the future of His disciples and for His Church, the "Great Commission." In the NALC, we embrace His mission as our only mission and being "Mission-Driven" is a value that shapes our life together.
Easter is the pinnacle of the Church year. It is the highest holiday, but it is not an end in itself. Easter is the power for mission! We worship a living Lord, Jesus. We have Good News to share about the power of His redemptive love that cannot be stopped or contained even by death. In fact, this love moves us from death to life. It takes away our fear, fills us with joy and keeps us moving in the direction of Jesus, worshiping Him even in our doubts, and serving him with all we have and are. This is not news we are called to keep to ourselves but Good News we are to share. The empty tomb of Easter is the symbol for going "all out" in mission! Nothing can stop the risen Christ and nothing can stop His people from sharing that Good News from where we are to the ends of the earth. The power for our mission and direction for our ministry is unleashed for all eternity in this one event! Christ is risen!
May the "all in" commitment of Christ on the Cross lead us to the "all out" commitment to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth until the whole world can join us in proclaiming, "Christ is risen indeed!"
Bishop John Bradosky
North American Lutheran Church