Easter offers us nothing less than hope. In the face of death, there is new life. In the face of destruction, there is resurrection. In the face of despair, there is cause to rejoice. Through the power of God, reality is turned upside down, and people of faith claim victory. We need the message and power of Easter to keep us focused in a world that is overwhelmed by violence, tragedy and oppression. Our God is greater than anything this world can throw at us. So, when it seems darkest, we hold onto the light. When we encounter fear, we face it with faith. Even when visited by death, we claim eternal life.
There is a secret to claiming Easter power in our lives, which we see again and again throughout Holy Week. That secret is prayer. From the Upper Room through the Garden of Gethsemane to the cross on Golgotha, prayer sustains and empowers Jesus to confront every challenge. Prayer, in the face of unbelievable odds, prevails. Easter is the answer to our prayers.
In our world today, we hear a gospel, but it is a gospel of bondage. Bondage to terrorism, bondage to greed, bondage to injustice, bondage to celebrity, bondage to violence, bondage to drugs. The world is listening to the wrong message. The gospel of Jesus the Christ is a message of hope and love and light and unity. The gospel of Jesus the Christ is a message of justice and forgiveness and kindness and compassion. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer to the perverted gospel of the ways of the world. Terrorism is not greater than God. Division and oppression are not greater than God. Disease and disaster are not greater than God. Even death is not greater than God. The God who raised Jesus from the grave is the God who has the power to address any challenge the world has to offer.
In this Easter season, my heart goes out to every place on earth torn apart by hatred, hostility, and horror. Especially, I think of my brothers and sisters in North and South Korea as they enter an eighth decade of division, hostility and broken relationship. I offer this prayer in the Spirit of Easter, as a claim of God’s will for a situation that seems hopeless, but by faith I know can be healed and redeemed. This is the Joint Easter Prayer from the Korea Christian Federation of the North and the National Council of Churches in Korea of the South:
Thank you for letting us know, as we hear the trickling waters beneath the melting ice, that spring is not far away. Thank you for showing us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that a new road lies beyond the one that ends.
Our people had shared joy, anger, sorrow, and pleasure, but for the last 70 years, we have lived separated as North and South embracing our wounds and pains. We have not ended division and conflict, only to find out ourselves that such 70 years were not enough. How can it be that 70 years were not enough to end division and conflict? And in fact a higher wall is rising in front of us. Amidst the vicious cycle of division, distrust, dispute and arms race, our land and sea have become a military experimentation field of weapons, not knowing when war will break out. The bridge that once yearned for peace and unification has crumbled, and the bird that once flew over that bridge, wet with rain, is no longer able to fly.
Have we stimulated misunderstanding and enmity even while speaking of reconciliation?
Have we aggravated conflict and confrontation even while speaking of ending the division?
Have we incited misunderstanding and distrust even while speaking of faith?
Have we been blind to our own self-interest even while speaking of coexistence?
Have we chosen the road that threatens our life even while speaking of our people’s survival and security?
God of grace,
Please let us see ourselves rightly, we who have gone against the path of life and taken part in destruction, instead of peace.
Have mercy on us and forgive us when we repent our foolishness and change our paths with tears in our eyes.
When we fail to realize our wrongs and continue to drive community to the cliff, please stop our steps and with your whip of love, lash our obstinacy and ignorance.
We yearn that compatriots of the North and South unlock the latch of separation and mightily soar on two wings.
For this hope to be fulfilled, the churches in the North and South will build a bridge of forgiveness and reconciliation where there is hate and division; let rivers of dialogue flow where there is distrust and confrontation; plant trees and create forests where there is violence and destruction.
God of resurrection,
Let the churches of the North and South hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Lead us to cultivate such desires and will into courage and wisdom, and become communions of faith that make peace.
In this cold and bleak season, let our people and our neighboring countries meet the tidings of spring and lights of life that break free from the icy ground.
In Jesus Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Grace and Peace,
Hee Soo Jung, PhD
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).