This year, for the first time in I don’t know how many years, I won’t be preaching on John 20:19-29. In case you aren’t quite familiar with that citation, it’s the story of “Doubting” Thomas, and it always is read on the Sunday after Easter Sunday. I won’t be preaching on this familiar story because I will be flying to St. Louis that day, to begin a week of Stephen Ministry Leader Training (I wrote about Stephen Ministry in my January 2019 newsletter article).

That promises to be an exciting, informative week of learning for me, and for Nicole Greer, who will also be attending that week of training. When we return, we will be able to begin training volunteers within the congregation to become Stephen Ministers, which then means that soon we will be able to provide this ministry of healing and counseling to members of St. Luke’s, as well as other family and friends of the congregation.

While I will miss the chance to preach on Thomas’s encounter with the risen Jesus, I like that we are embarking on a new ministry of healing so soon after Easter Sunday.

Easter is the great festival of life. Life that is no longer conditioned by death. Easter is the day when God defeats the power of death, when God declares that death is not the final word, and God makes real the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Easter is the reason we are here, at St. Luke’s. We are here to proclaim this good news of life, this good news of hope, this good news of God’s love, this good news of God declaring that literally nothing will now separate us from God, ever, not even death. It is about life renewed and life restored. It is about new hope and new joy and new beginnings for all.

Easter proclaims that the old ways, the ways of death and despair, cannot overcome God’s new way of life and joy. To live in the light of Easter, to be people of the resurrection, is to live secure in the knowledge that God is truly and eternally with us. It is to live in the security of knowing God’s will and desire for life will have the last word for us, and to know, more surely than we can know anything else, that God does, in fact, win.

To be able to participate in Stephen Ministry, as a trainer, a minister, or as a recipient of ministry, is to embrace God’s new vision of life and hope. This is a ministry of comfort and healing, it is a ministry focused on life, on being able to continue living with hope even on the face of struggle and sorrow and crisis. This ministry is a tangible living out of the Easter promise that we are never truly alone. You are cared about, and you can be cared for, especially when that need for caring love is at its greatest. A Stephen Minister is a visible sign, a visible presence, of God’s all-embracing love, and a visible sign and presence of this community of faith, rooted as it is in God’s unconditional love, being a means by which God’s healing, caring love can be made personal and real for you in even your darkest times.

At all times we are called to live out our Easter faith, a faith rooted in love, a faith lived out in acts of caring and support, a faith made real in our mutual consolation and conversation.

Happy, Blessed Easter to you all!!! Live always in the resurrection joy of our Risen Lord!!! Celebrate God’s victory of life every day!!! See you in church!

Pr. Paul