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On Faith: Easter offers reflection on our joys and sorrows

As someone who has attended my fair share of funerals, I have often found them to be bittersweet. Funerals can be joyful, as they are frequently filled with wonderful stories about our loved ones, encounters with long lost relatives, good food, and even the knowledge that our loved ones are no longer hurting and struggling but are at rest. Of course, I’m speaking in broad generalizations, but by and large most funerals have some joyous and hopeful moments.

On the flip side, funerals really stink. They stink and they really hurt, because the people that we’ve come to say goodbye to aren’t with us anymore, and we miss them, and that really hurts.

Sometimes I feel the same way about Holy Week as I do about funerals.

This Sunday, March 24, marks the beginning of Holy Week on most Christian calendars. It begins with the celebration of Palm Sunday. This is the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago to thunderous songs of praise from those crowded in the city that day, greeting him with palm branches which they laid in front of him to show honor and respect. It was a joyous occasion as many embraced Jesus as the Lord’s Messiah who had come to bring deliverance to the world.

Unfortunately, things changed drastically by Friday, according to Biblical accounts: Jesus was seized by an angry mob, tried for treason and then executed. The story quickly becomes more complicated as Sunday morning Jesus’ tomb is found empty and reports begin to surface of him appearing to his followers throughout the city that day.

What I find so unique about the resurrection accounts of Easter Sunday is the one given in John 20:19-23 as Jesus, who had just suffered so much at the hands of sinful humanity, commands the disciples and the whole church to move forward by proclaiming the forgiveness of sins.

Holy week is a reminder to all of us that we are sinners who make mistakes each and every day, but through the person of Jesus, God shows us mercy. The Apostle Paul says it best in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This is both sorrowing and joyful news. Sorrowing in the sense that our mistakes have sent Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to the cross to pay for our sins. Joyful in the sense that this demonstrates how much you are loved by the God who created all things. He died and rose for you so that you can live in the hope of living forever.

Next week many churches throughout the greater Cloquet area will provide opportunities for you to attend special services and be reminded of the love and sacrifice that God has shown for you. I would like to invite you to please take time to stop by a church in our community next week. As you do, you will encounter a beautiful narrative which, like many funerals, is bittersweet. It is a narrative filled with the sorrow of our regrets, and the joyous news that those regrets don’t need to consume our lives.

The truth is that most of us live in some pretty dark headspace most of the time, where we can be our harshest critics and where our lives can feel rather despairing. But as the churches of Cloquet prepare to observe Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, I hope that you will find comfort in the words of John 1:5: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome him.”

Writer Matt Kohl is the pastor at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Cloquet.

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