PARADISE CORNER

It is true that both death and taxes are certain—but taxes come around more often. In fact, I am preparing this article while taking a break from working on our taxes. We have an accountant because clergy taxes are complicated, but everything still needs to be prepared for the accountant. This would go a lot more swiftly if I kept records more consistently during the year. But, the truth for me, as I suspect it is for many, is that I start off well in the record keeping department and end up falling off the wagon by the end of the first quarter.

We may not all have the same challenge when it comes to record keeping for taxes, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have other challenges. Take various spiritual practices as an example. For example, throughout my ministry, folks have told me about their plans to read the Bible through and about how they consistently get derailed when they get to Leviticus. Lent, with its common practice of added spiritual practices is yet another time to on the wagon and off the wagon again and again. It is good news that God has claimed us through a faith that acknowledges new beginnings that come around again and again. I want to say, “as often as taxes,” but God’s new beginnings come around more often than taxes!

God’s ultimate new beginning began (see what I did there?) with the discovery of the Empty Tomb on Easter morning. What appears to be the original ending of Mark’s gospel would say that was enough. (Mark’s gospel has as many as four different endings, which should be indicated in your Bible.) But, faithful followers of Jesus, starting with the first disciples, want more and more to see, say, and experience about God’s ultimate new beginning repeatedly. I wouldn’t say faithful followers of Jesus want God’s new beginning to come around as often as taxes, because I believe God is more powerful than that. Instead, what I would say is that faithful followers of Jesus want God’s new beginning to come around as relentlessly as death itself.

That—my friends, is what the message of Easter is. The message of Easter says that God’s plan is not for death to have the final word. Rather, God’s plan is for even the worst human experience to point to God’s power to change and transform situations to match what God intends. In the end, only God can transform death into life. How, when, and for whom that happens is God’s choice. Our source of hope and strength is that because God walks with us, we do not face the worst human experiences—including death and taxes—alone. We face the worst human experiences with God’s companionship in Jesus Christ who comes around so often that we celebrate his resurrection every Sunday. (Every Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection, which is why the Sundays are not counted in the forty days of Lent.) Neither death nor taxes can hold a candle to that kind of persistent power. Only the cross can do that, because, in the cross we always find a new beginning.

Live as children of light!
Pastor Scott Paradise