by Ron Clark, Kairos Executive DIrector
Easter is a special time for both Lori and me. In ministry we always placed an emphasis on Sunday worship, inviting friends to church and to dinner in our home, and preaching Jesus’ resurrection. I would challenge our congregation to invite their neighbors on Sunday, and to begin praying for God’s Spirit to move in the hearts of those seeking healing, transformation, and forgiveness.
We planted Agape Church of Christ on Easter Sunday 2007. Easter was always
a great day for church planting as we celebrated Agape’s birthday and saw our attendance grow each year. Now, after leaving full time preaching ministry, we continue that pattern of inviting friends to worship with us and to enjoy a meal in our home. It is a day that brings life, hope, and relationship with Jesus.
We cannot imagine our lives without this day. While I believe that every Sunday is resurrection day, Easter reminds us that love, mercy, and hope conquer death and the fear of death. One reason is because Jesus, and his disciples, have always faced their fears because they had hope in new life.
In Luke 9:23-36, Peter, James, and John accompanied Jesus to a mountain for prayer. This happened eight days (eight is the number of the resurrection in the ancient world) after Jesus challenged them with the news that he would be rejected, crucified, killed, and raised to life. During this time Jesus told the disciples that if they were ashamed of his life and death, he would be ashamed of them. For eight days they must have wrestled with his words and the reality of his mission. The fear of his suffering (and their own) and the shame of the cross must have weighed heavily on them.
Now, on this mountain, Jesus’ three best friends came with him for a time of prayer and reflection. As usual, the three men were sleepy and did not see that Jesus’ clothes were bright and white and that he talked with Moses (the only one to see God face to face) and Elijah about his “exodus” at Jerusalem. As the three friends awoke and witnessed Jesus’ glory they offered to put up shelters for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, but while they were speaking a cloud covered them all as God spoke. Peter, James, and John were witnessing a divine event. The bright light, clothes, conversation with Jewish heroes, glory, and cloud represented one thing . . . Jesus is God. In the Bible when a cloud filled the tabernacle people ran. In this story the three friends of Jesus walk into the cloud.
Notice what Luke wrote, “they were afraid as they entered the cloud . . .” (Luke 9:34). These three realized that they were in the presence of God but overcame their fear by drawing near to the presence of Jesus. While following Jesus, his crucifixion, and resurrection come with a price, we can overcome our fears as we follow Jesus.
Planting a church was difficult. It was hard to leave an established church to step out on faith as we, like Peter, James, and John, would enter the cloud, sometimes afraid, knowing that Jesus would provide. Our fears were overcome as we saw Jesus change countless lives, touch hearts, and prove that he had indeed risen. This past week we heard the news of a member from Agape who died from a long and painful battle with cancer. Ken and Linda McDonald had both been sold into the sex industry as teenagers and finally left, found each other, and married. We met them at one of the houseless villages where we served, built homes, and led Bible studies. They came to Agape and were baptized at our Christmas service. Their struggle with drugs and alcohol continued for a few years but Linda helped Lori in her ministry and Ken sang on our praise team.
Even though Ken had AIDS, he was welcome and active in our church. After moving from Portland to South Oregon they found another good church and remained sober. Linda wrote this to me, “Ken often related the story about how you and Agape helped us get off the streets, out of the village, and into a little apartment. We have shared how much love you all gave to the homeless of Portland and told this over and over as part of our testimony. We can never thank
you in Jesus enough.”
That says it all. Their life is proof of Easter.
Ministry in houseless villages, loving those who have been trafficked and struggle with addictions, and opening our lives and homes to those who feel unworthy is one way we enter the cloud, even though we may be afraid. Even more, Ken and Linda showed us that they were willing to enter the cloud despite their fears, anxiety, and addictions. In the end Jesus saves and that was not only their testimony, but it can be ours as well.
Jesus is risen and He continues to raise others to life.