Like many things, Lent and Holy Week bring my mind back to that moment three years ago, when the world locked down to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. That season of masks, social distancing, and unrest began what pandemic season felt like an “extended Lent” for the months that followed. 

The Book of Common Prayer describes the season of Lent in these words:

The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.  We are invited to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word.

Lent, Holy Week, and other dark moments like these drive us to reflect on our mortality and how fleeting our efforts can be. But we also are reminded of how God meets us in our mortal lives.

I once took on a ministry that was in real trouble.  The operation was failing and we had to make some very hard, even radical decisions if this work was to survive and continue.  I proposed to the governing board some sweeping and drastic changes. We all agreed that if this institution was to have a future, we needed this new structure to remake the ministry and create a sustainable model of operation. After that important board meeting, a long-time board member pulled me aside and commenting on what we were doing said, “For there to be a resurrection, there has to be a death.”

For there to be a resurrection there has to be a death.

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I remember thinking, “that’s good!” and even writing it down in my notes. A couple of months later the death came – it was hard, painful, wearying and I did not know if we were going to make it. Slowly because of the changes we initiated, the ministry began to heal, to bear fruit, and move into health and strength.

Death and Pruning

When I was a young child, on a fall day my dad took pruning sheers to a fig tree in our yard and cut it way back, lopping off branches with lush green growth on them. I watched in amazement as I did not understand and was perplexed by his actions. He told me a lot of the branches were growing but not bearing fruit and robbing the nutrients from the branches that were. They needed to go. He winked and said, It will be all right, you’ll see.  

Sure enough, in the Spring the fig tree grew back and produced 3-2 times the fruit it had in the past. It was a visual lesson that has stayed with me all my life.

As we approach the celebration of Easter. Maybe you, like me feel like you have been in an extended season of Lent. Maybe in this season, you have been pruned of things that were not necessary and even taking away from your life. Maybe there’s been a tragedy, you’ve lost someone to this disease or another type of disaster. Maybe just your way of life, your routine, what you expected and were comfortable with disappeared. Hold on and have hope.

For there to be a resurrection, there has to be a death.  

Jesus went to the cross to bear the pain, sorrow, brokenness, sin, and evil in this world he took it upon himself so that we could be saved, redeemed, and reconciled. On that cross, Jesus died, gave up His life so that we would live. John 3:16 is still familiar to a lot of our culture as an expression of the gospel message…

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Not as well known or familiar, but making another point about the cross is 1 John 3:16… 

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

For there to be a resurrection, there has to be death. This was true for Jesus and it is true for us as well. The last year has been full of death and loss but we walk these days with resurrection and hope. We exercise our faith in this moment and we take hold knowing that death is not the end.

For there to be a resurrection, there has to be death. This was true for Jesus and it is true for us as well. The last year has been full of death and loss but we walk these days with resurrection and hope.

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We might be from all sorts of Christian traditions and backgrounds, denominations – Baptist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodists, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, non-denom… We have our distinctions and those can be celebrated. But on Easter morning the Church of Jesus is united and bound together because of this one fact we all believe Jesus was raised from the dead.

We are at heart Easter People. 

This is our hope—a sure and genuine hope—and we will not be disappointed when we put our faith in Jesus and our hope in God’s promises for it all leads to resurrection.

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Jon Davis
About the Author

Jon Davis

The Rev. Jon Davis PhD is an Episcopal Priest, church planter, teacher, worship leader. He is on staff with Fresh Expressions as a mission strategist and is launching some Fresh Expression gatherings through the Abbey Mission in a NE suburb of Orlando.   jon.davis@freshexpressions.com