Saturday, April 19, 2014

Living as Easter people

The following news article is reprinted in its entirety from Bishop Michael J. Coyner from the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church:

The holy season of Easter - the great 50 days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday - calls us to live as Easter people. By contrast, sometimes we settle for just being "church people." There is really quite a difference between those two lifestyles:
  • Easter people base their faith on the sacrifice of the Cross and the victory of Easter.  Church people base their faith on their own busy work in the church. 
  • Easter people trust in Christ; church people try to earn this salvation by being good people.
  • Easter people know that the church is the Body of Christ; church people believe the church is just another institution.
  • Easter people worship out of a sense of joy and give their offerings out of a sense of gratitude to God. Church people too often attend worship and give to the church budget out of a sense of obligation.

    And most importantly,

  • Easter people approach their own death of the death of a loved one anticipating the promise of Resurrection. Church people fear death and live life with a sense of dread.
Do you hear the difference? Church people are good people, hard working people, often the backbone of their community, respectable and faithful. Easter people are church people who have finally discovered what the Christian faith is all about.

It's sad when some people live their whole life as what John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, called "Almost Christians." Wesley urged the church people of his day to discover what he had finally discovered in the heart-warming experience we call his Aldersgate Experience. Wesley searched and searched to know God, to find joy in his faith and to have an assurance of God's grace.

When he attended a prayer meeting on Aldersgate Street in London, England he heard the group leader reading from Martin Luther. He heard about Luther's focus from Romans that "the just shall live by faith."

Wesley writes that he felt his heart "strangely warmed" and finally he knew for himself God's love and forgiveness. At that moment, Wesley changed from being a hard-working, religious and dutiful church person. Wesley became an Easter person.

Several years ago composers Richard Avery and Donald Marsh put this joy into a little song called "Every Morning is Easter Morning." The chorus goes:

"Ev'ry morning is Easter morning from now on! 
Ev'ry day's resurrection day, the past is over and gone!" 
The first stanza includes the words: 
"I am one of the Easter people! My new life has begun!"

My prayer for all people is that this season of Easter might be a time of discovering our Easter faith, learning to know God's love, and becoming Easter people. Happy Easter!

Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Area of
The United Methodist Church