The third annual Unity Walk will be held on May 1 this year. An interfaith group of people from Trenton and throughout Mercer County (the United Mercer Interfaith Organization) have committed themselves to make a public witness to their hope in God’s desire for peace to reign throughout our city. We do this important work by traveling to all of the murder sites in our city over the past year and gathering to pray at those places. I would highly encourage you all to participate in this event to the best of your ability. As Christians we celebrate and worship a God who has conquered the power of sin and death through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. One of the central practices of our faith is an active defiance against death. When we or others might be tempted to concede to death’s power saying it is an inevitable part of life, we who follow Christ say loudly, “No!” We do not believe that death is something that ultimately needs to be accepted or that it is finally a necessary part of life. We believe that “…Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).
We hear a lot about heaven in popular culture (it seems like it is mentioned in every other romantic song on the radio) and we hear about resurrection often in church. Neither is necessarily a bad thing. I highly encourage folks to enjoy their “heavenly” relationships and resurrection is pretty much what we are all about in the church. I think, however, that we get so accustomed to the idea or what we are told should be our idea of the defeat of death, that we forget how powerfully defiant the very idea is. Death is the one thing in life of which we can be absolutely certain, but in the person of Jesus Christ we cannot even be sure of that. In fact, in our faith we say that we can be certain that death’s power is certainly defeated and obsolete. It is that boldness of faith that compels us to proclaim God’s life and love in the places that seem filled with the certainty of death and fear. In his work, On Councils and the Church, Martin Luther identifies seven external marks or indicators of the church. Perhaps most interestingly, Luther identifies the final mark as:
The Sacred Cross” and describes it as the church bearing, “…every misfortune and persecution, all kinds of trials and evil from the devil, the world, and the flesh (as the Lord’s Prayer indicates) by inward sadness, timidity, fear, outward poverty, contempt, illness, and weakness, in order to become like their head, Christ. … Wherever you see or hear this, you may know that the holy Christian church is there.
The church has been entrusted with incredible good news. All sin has been forgiven, God’s mercy reigns, and Christ defeated death so that we might inherit eternal life. Many of us are keenly and personally aware of the joy that such Good News brings. Knowing the power of the Good News of God’s unconditional love we as the church are blessed with the opportunity to enter into places where there are “…all kinds of trials and evil from the devil, the world, and the flesh…” Such places certainly include the murder sites in our city. We travel to those places to witness the steadfast love of God that perseveres even in the midst of fear and violence and the grace of God that destroys the power of death itself.