Dear CME Family:
 
       One of the stanzas of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” is this one:
                             Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
                             Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
                             Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
                             Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
 
          In the rhythm of the cycle of Lectionary living and Lectionary preaching, we spend 40 days of Lent in preparation, in fasting, in prayer, in penitence of various types as we bring ourselves under subjection even as Christ brought Himself under subjection to do the will of God as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  That Lectionary rhythm has been mine for at least 45 years of “preparing” during Lent; a rhythm that acknowledged the gift of God’s Son “setting His face” toward Jerusalem, of Him dying on the cross for the salvation of the world, a rhythm caught up in the festive celebration of the Easter message – “He is Risen!”, and a rhythm that culminated in the pronouncement and promise of Ascension Day some several weeks later – “This same Jesus … will come back in the same way you have seen him go …” (Acts 1:11).
 
          These Lectionary emphases that I’m calling a rhythm are all true to and for spiritual renewal, and I believe it no less today than at any other point in my life.  Nevertheless, the last few months have been difficult months to celebrate spiritual ideas and actions in isolation, for I have felt more and more the pain of intense suffering and religious prejudice, and of racial and gender bigotry as these are playing out more and more in our world.  For the last few months writing has been difficult because my spirit has been acutely challenged by an empathy with the sufferings of others while at the same time living through the change in tenor of our United States Government leadership from what seemed a concern for the world before January 2017 to what seems now primarily a concern for the selfish interests of the very rich, the very privileged, and the very white.
 
          I wanted to write some things during Lent … but it was hard to be focused on personal, private fasting without acknowledging the need for fasting as actions that heed the call of God to “do justly” and to “love mercy.”  (Isaiah 58 has permeated my spirit.)  Perhaps you are not where I am, but to know that a Hispanic mother and father can go to the store for their children and be picked up by immigration agents and immediately be taken away for deportation without the privilege of even a phone call to alert a family member of what has happened strikes me as cruel and callous punishment.  For our United States President to issue an executive order that is, in essence, a ban on persons coming into our nation from predominantly Muslim nations – even persons who have been vetted by our own State Department officials – is to enflame more bigotry against faiths that are different than our own.  History has taught us that we cannot stand by idly while prejudice is exercised against other groups without knowing that the probability of our being in line to receive the same kind of ill treatment is great. 
 
          Yes, celebrate the Resurrection!  Yes, celebrate Christ’s victory over the grave!  Yes, celebrate Christ’s victory over evil!  But as you celebrate, remember that there would have been no resurrection without a crucifixion; and there would have been no crucifixion without the unmitigated gall of Christ to show to the world God’s bowels of mercies, a Christ who was determined that we would see in His concern and compassion and character that God is steadfast in mercy for the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the insured and the uninsured, the privileged and the marginalized, the insiders and the outcasts.
 
          People are suffering in many places in the world – and we cannot sit behind a great wall (or an iron curtain) in the United States (or anywhere else) and pretend that we do not see.  We cannot sit behind church walls and pretend not to hear.  People of all ages – from little children to senior citizens – are dying of starvation in several places in the world.  We can help.  The great nation called the United States of America can help.  But God forbid that we insulate ourselves as in ivory towers and pretend not to see while we shout, “America first!  America first!”  No, like Christ, we must commit to actions that fight for justice in the world within and beyond our borders, even if these actions lead us to the cross.  And if we do what we are called to do, then – because we have done as commanded – then will come the celebration of a resurrection.
 
          Christ leads us to victory … and Christ leads us by way of the cross.
         
                             Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
                             Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
                             Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
                             Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
 

                                  
 
                                                                                    +Lawrence L. Reddick III

 
 

Celebrating Eastertide in the Shadow of Cross Bearing

by Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick