Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
He is Risen. He is Risen Indeed!
Those words have just recently rung out loud and long on Easter Sunday around the globe: from Europe to Africa to Asia to Australia to the Americas. Indeed, they need to ring out joyously every day as Christians proclaim the hope that comes through the death and victory over death by the Risen Savior, Jesus Christ. It is a hope that we have in common through our mission of Christian education worldwide and the basis upon which the Global Pedagogical Network – Joining in Reformation (GPEN) is based.
This Easter was celebrated by many people throughout the world in locations that were not by their choice as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our typical places to gather in congregations with fellow believers were not available in many locations to ensure the safety and health of individuals and to slow down the spread of the dreaded virus. In fact, even leaving our homes was considered by many to be too big a risk. Over 180 countries on every continent have been affected with the total number of cases topping more than 1.5 million individuals as of April 8, 2020. The number of deaths keeps climbing. It is easy to lose hope at a time like this.
Our hope rests ultimately in our Risen Savior who is the source of hope in our lives every day. God has given His people the strength to be hope-filled in everything we do, including education. Through our schools, our homes, and many other places of learning, we can teach how Christ first loved us and how we can share His love with each other. We can support and nourish God’s children of all ages. We have been blessed by not having to do this alone. We are part of the priesthood of believers who are spread throughout the world. We have local and national systems of education to support what we do and encourage the development of educators. Organizations such as GPEN exist to connect with global Christian networks and focus on topics that are of relevance and importance in today’s world.
I celebrated Easter this year from my home. In most of the United States, the precaution of the “stay at home” order from various levels of government was enforced to protect its citizens. Gathering of any kind outside the home has been heavily discouraged. It was the first time in 65 years that I was not part of gatherings that have marked Easter Sunday as long as I can remember: my church congregation, my extended family, and friends. I missed those familiar and comfortable traditions. I imagine this was the case for a good portion of the population of countless countries and a necessary step in combatting COVID-19. As a result of my being separated from these gatherings, I was reminded of the tremendous value I place on relationships, and about the fact that I have sometimes taken them for granted. We have learned in recent weeks about the importance of other types of “gathering” using the gifts of technology, included the use of this tool to participate in Easter worship. Relationships are not based on physical proximity alone, but on the love that we share with each other as God’s precious children, regardless of location.
We are especially reminded at times such as this of the assurance of hope that God has provided in our relationship with Him, even as David was reminded in his words quoted by Peter in Acts 2:25-28:
I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.
In this world of sickness, pain and death – along with all the challenges that we face as fallen sinners – we can surely rejoice every day in the assurance of eternal life which our Lord made possible by the death and Resurrection of Jesus and as celebrated by Christians worldwide. It is the best story that we can share with children, youth, and adults in every setting, whether physically gathered or virtually linked. Our hope comes from God, who has conquered death. May this constant reminder of His love for all His people comfort you in your important calling every day, as we join globally is the joyous Easter hymn:
I know that my Redeemer lives;
what comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my ever-living Head.
He lives to silence all my fears,
He lives to wipe away my tears,
He lives to calm my troubled heart,
He lives all blessings to impart.
He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives and I shall conquer death;
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He lives to bring me safely there.
He lives, all glory to His name!
He lives, my Jesus, still the same.
Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives,
“I know that my Redeemer lives!”
Dr. Jonathan Laabs
Executive Director, Lutheran Education Association
GPENreformation Council Member