This year, my heart yearns for reassurance. I seek reassurance that God calls me to minister, when ministry so often seems futile. I am listening for reassurance that my ministry is as meaningful to sixty as it might be to a thousand. I am in need of reassurance that God is far more pleased with my faithfulness than is displeased by my failure. I need reassurance that I am a minister of a faith that is on the ascendancy and not in decline. I beg for a reassurance that the church can and does lead society towards social justice and inclusion rather than always being forced by circumstance to belatedly and grudgingly accept it. Each time I preach, I pray for reassurance that what Jesus proclaimed still matters.
This Easter season, I have found that reassurance. “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”
Throughout the year, in ministries around the world, servants of the church are looking for Jesus just as Mary of Magdalene did. We recognize that Jesus was crucified. We see Jesus crucified when we see how some members of our churches treat fellow members. We see Christ crucified on the cross when our churches resort to workshops and conferences so as to endlessly discern our God-given purpose when our purpose is to serve the needs of those an ocean away. I see Christ crucified as HIV and AIDS devastates southern Africa and there is no sense of public crisis. I see Christ crucified every Sunday as I worship in churches that are still worshiping as the Apartheid government legislated thirty years ago.
The angel knows our minds are discouraged by a crucified Christ.
And we receive reassurance. He is Risen! I have found Christ in a hospital room as the members of Bethel Congregational Church gather to pray for a deacon. I have found Christ at Bethel Congregational Church when the congregation was so moved by the suffering of others that it decided after a sermon to donate a month’s offering to the victims of the tsunami disaster. Christ was revealed as the Bethel Congregational Church youth painted a banner displayed in the front of the sanctuary that read, “Our Tears and our Hope Make Us All HIV and AIDS Affected.” I see Christ resurrected when at Bethel Congregational Church we pray in Afrikaans, English, and Zulu, so as to invite and welcome all.
He is Risen! And yes, I acknowledge the crucifixion. It is with me everyday. Yes, sometimes I look for the corpse of Christ as we see and hear of so many others. Yes, at times it is overwhelming. And yes, we need to be reassured.
When you are next in South Africa, come to Bethel Congregational Church. We have been reassured that our ministry does matter, and is important, and is in fact our only hope. We are not afraid or discouraged this Easter season. For we see that He is risen!
Revs Scott Couper and Susan Valiquette
Scott Couper and Susan Valiquette are missionaries serving in South Africa. Scott serves with the UCCSA as pastor at a UCCSA congregation in Durban. Susan serves with the Inanda Seminary in Durban, South Africa as chaplain.