Some countries observe Easter Monday, the day after Easter as a holiday. For most of us in the United States, the day after Easter is back to work or school and the inevitable question, “How was your Easter?” Typical responses include how church was, whose house for dinner, and the various foods on the table. This year, by the time we gathered for church on Sunday, hundreds of Christians attending Easter Masses in Sri Lanka died at the hands of terrorist bombings. What are we to make of such attacks? How can Christians around the world have such different experiences on the holiest day of the year?
Sadly, no religious group is immune from terrorism. In October 2018, a gunman killed eleven worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. In March 2019, a gunman killed 50 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand. On Palm Sunday in 2017, terrorists killed 47 worshippers at Coptic churches in Egypt. One can look throughout human history and see episodes of religious disagreement and battles. In the years after Christ’s ascension, the Romans attacked Jerusalem and attempted to replace Jewish practices with elements of Roman religion.
John 16 records Jesus speaking with Jesus about his departure from the world, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” (v. 16) Times and events will come that Jesus’ followers will not expect as their enemies will seek even to kill them. Jesus concludes, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” Nowhere has Christ overcome the world more than in his resurrection from the dead. He has accomplished what no one else has ever done. He was crucified, died, buried and raised from the dead. He has brought us forgiveness and new life, eternal life.
What are we to make of the terrorist bombings? There will be more in the future, but that fact does not mean Christians should be complacent. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus states, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9). As we are able, Jesus calls us to be involved in our communities. Perhaps the best way to be a peacemaker is to pray for peace. Pray to God to work in the hearts of those who look to violence as a solution. Do not dismiss prayer as a simple task that might bring about a few results. Our prayers are in the name of the one who has overcome the world. If Jesus can overcome the world, he can overcome the hearts of those who seek to harm others.
Pastor Michael Dorner