"A billboard I would pass by about 40 years ago in North Minneapolis had a very simple message - 'Easter is forever'."
Whoa! Hold on big fella! You are off by a few days! Not really. Let me explain. The church we attend is very large - the 11th largest in the nation. The campus we attend which is close to our home, is bursting at the seams with worshipers. So much so, that the Easter services are spread across four days. One service on Thursday, two on Friday, three on Saturday and two on Sunday. And each service is expected to be full.
But for many in the Catholic and Protestant faiths, Easter also starts tonight for a different reason. It is Maundy Thursday. It is the night of the Last Supper, which is the genius of Holy Communion. It was also the night which one of Christ's own, betrayed him. It was the start of mankind putting the Son of God, this Son of Man, to death in the most cruel fashion.
When Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss on the cheek in return for a few pieces of silver, did Jesus hate Judas? No. God does not hate, He loves. All Jesus asked Judas was this - "Must you betray me with a kiss?" Jesus knew what was ahead. He knew this was part of God's plan. But Jesus was born man. The torture and death with awaited in a less than a day were are going to be as painful and real as they would be to any human.
Like I said - the events we celebrate and remember tonight are the start of Easter. A billboard I would pass by about 40 years ago in North Minneapolis had a very simple message - "Easter is forever". No matter what happens in our world, nothing will "undo" the Easter story. This event, this savior of all mankind, happened over 2,000 years ago. And the message today is as relevant as the message was when it all started.
Somebody asked me a few years ago, "so what is the message?" I simply replied "hope". No matter what you have done in your life, God will not love you any less. And no matter how much good you will do until before die, God will not love you more. God's love is agape - a term humans cannot understand. Why? Our humanness makes our love conditional. God's is not. All we need to do is accept God's most special gift.
If you have not been to church in a while, and decide to come back this weekend, remember two things - First, churches are hospitals for sinners, not temples for the pious. Most folks in that church have walked very rocky roads also. Second (and this is the most important one) - even if you think you have been as evil at Attila the Hun, in God's eye's, you are still His. He wants you back.
Am I excited about Easter? Absolutely! For without Easter, we have nothing. No hope, no future. The tough day comes tomorrow - but we will get through it. We have to. Because after the darkness come the dawn - comes the resurrection.