But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. (1 Thessalonians 4:13 NRSV)
My office is located in the business wing of a shopping mall in downtown Winnipeg, where hundreds of young people come to hang out. Some dress in the clothes typical of the rap musicians they see on TV. Others emulate gang outfits. Some belong to gangs. None of them seem to have anything to do in the middle of the day. When the weather is warmer, they hang around the courtyard entrance and deal drugs.
As I sit and watch, what I ponder about these people is the seeming emptiness in their lives. Their eyes are empty; their conversation is empty; their hopes are empty. Drugs and sex mask the void, but their relationships are casual and their ability to form community very limited. For some, committing petty crimes is as close as they come to purposeful activity.
Every city in Canada has malls like this one. It reminds me of the John Ylvisaker song, Help O Lord the thrown away…who wander in the frozen land that sunlight cannot touch. (1970) They are people who "grieve as others do who have no hope."
In contrast, Sunday service in my home congregation is attended by a couple dozen Africans who lived in a refugee camp for nine years. During that time they were so endangered by religious persecution that the Canadian government finally processed their applications as a group for their own safety. They have survived a Winnipeg winter and continue to struggle to make ends meet as they seek job training and employment. The informal leader of the group was an accountant back home, but his credentials are not recognized in Canada, so he is forced into the kind of work the unskilled do in our society. Nevertheless, he and his friends are looking to the future and are trying to build a new life for themselves.
I am struck by the contrast between the two kinds of people I have described. The refugees are, to me, Easter people. Their life in our society is not particularly happy or easy, but they are willing to take part in life rather than avoid it. They are not just killing time, waiting for some dead end. They are living toward a future. They do not grieve as those who have no hope; they anticipate. Those with no hope mourn; those with hope live for the future where the risen Lord Jesus Christ awaits us.
Jesus has been raised from the dead. Every day is part of an eternal journey in a deathless relationship. In such a relationship, every day offers the freedom to dare to take chances, to be challenged to the utmost, to relish or abstain freely, because it is a life full of trust, joy and gratitude. There is no room or time for emptiness. There is only the eager anticipation of Christ and life in all its fullness.
Raymond L. Schultz, National Bishop
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