By Gwen Gustafson-Zook, minister of worship at Goshen College
Reprinted from Lenten Devotions
“Life is like Easter: a hard and hopeful time.”
– Obed Dashan, Jos, Nigeria
The notification beeped on my computer and I was pleased to see that my friend and former seminary classmate from Nigeria was checking in. He currently serves as the General Secretary for the Church of Christ in Nigeria/Nations headquartered in Jos, Nigeria. When I casually asked him how he was doing, he responded, “Life is like Easter: a hard and hopeful time.” He went on to report that in churches throughout Nigeria violence against Christians and those accused of promoting “westernized education” is rampant. Bomb blasts, the abduction of 200 school girls, the killing of people of faith – all of this in the past week – Holy Week. Obed is convinced that if those committing the atrocities would encounter the risen Christ, they, like Paul on the road to Damascus, would turn from their violent ways and become agents of positive change. As followers of the way of Jesus they would “influence the world with the gospel of peace.” So he prays for his enemies and consistently encourages Christians throughout Nigeria and beyond to live as people of peace in the face of horrific violence. “What gives you hope?” I asked. And he reminded me of names of his three children, all of whom were born around the time we studied together: Fwangmun: The Spirit Sustains, Nanshelmun: God walks with us and Pankyes: In God we find peace.
Sometimes amidst the eggs and the lilies and the baby chicks we turn away from the pain and violence that is the context for the resurrection. This year, I will make a commitment to not turn away. I will still sing the Easter songs with gusto. I will still relish the time with family and the faith community, even more so realizing how often I take them for granted. But I will also stand with my brothers and sisters around the world as they cling to the power of Love made known in the resurrection of Jesus Christ – and boldly and hope-fully proclaim: the violence and the hatred will not win! Christ has risen! Hallelujah!
John 20:1-18 (NRSV)