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From an Empty Lot to an Empty Tomb

03.14.18 | CitySquare | by Rev. Jonathan Grace

From an Empty Lot to an Empty Tomb

    Jesus came out of his time of fasting with a heart transformed by God, ready to heal and to love, and with a purpose: the spreading of the Gospel through word and deed.

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    Lent is supposed to be a difficult season. It is based on Christ’s time in the wilderness, in which he fasted and was tempted by the Devil. Christ took this time, at the direction of the Holy Spirit, to decide whether he would be faithful to God and fulfill his reconciling mission, or if the task was too much for him.

    Luckily, Jesus accepted the harsh joy of a life dedicated to God and neighbor. Jesus came out of his time of fasting with a heart transformed by God, ready to heal and to love, and with a purpose: the spreading of the Gospel through word and deed.

    Lent is designed to connect us to God for forty days and to rebuild our relationship with our Creator and Redeemer.

    The Holy Spirit insists on renewing relationships.

    This year my wife and I have adopted the Keto diet for Lent (no bread or sugar), and I have spent ten minutes in centering prayer daily. This has left me with both more energy and a hollow feeling as my body grapples with a sudden lack of sugar and carbs. The hollowness is a reminder of Christ’s time in the desert as he fasted in preparation for his ministry. Even as I have struggled and raged against my diet, I have been thankful for this time of fasting.

    However, just as the Holy Spirit leads us into deserts for the renewing of our hearts, the Holy Spirit leads us out of the desert with a renewed purpose. Lent is just a season; it prepares us for something greater.

    Lent ends on Easter morning.

    Our time of fasting and denial comes to an end as we witness the fulfillment of the Gospel: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Christ, suffering is transformed to strength, despair to joy, grief to hope, and death to life. Where once there was an occupied tomb that proclaimed death, now the tomb is empty. The horror of death is conquered by the promise of life eternal. The emptiness of the tomb invites us into holy mystery as we wonder, “Could it be? Has Christ risen?” We step out of the tomb and into the arms of the living Christ.

    It is no secret that the neighborhood around Church at the Square often proclaims death.

    We bear witness to death as women’s bodies are sold to satiate the lust and greed of men who are far too eager to exploit them.

    We encounter death as minds crafted by God’s own hands, meant to study the Word of God and contribute to society, are numbed and erased by addiction.

    We clash with death as the grinding forces of poverty tear out our hearts of hope and replace them with hearts of apathy, for why would anyone work for change if the drugs and violence and homelessness will never go away?

    And yes, we mourn physical death as our loved ones are murdered in the streets, gasping out their final Spirit-filled breaths into the muck of East Dallas.

    It continues day in and day out.

    However, God hears our cries. God lives among the suffering and dying. God is not content to let God’s people live in such squalor of body and soul. The very God who touched and healed the unclean, the Savior who fasted in the desert alone and hungry, the Lord of All who died a criminal’s death, resurrects us from our hopelessness and invites us into new life. The Holy Spirit is alive in our neighborhood and in our church.

    On Easter morning at Church at the Square, we are going to follow the Holy Spirit into an empty lot at the corner of Dawson and Jeffries Street, between CitySquare’s Opportunity Center and Austin Street Center.

    Many homeless neighbors stay there or linger there at all hours. Their presence not only attracts service providers but drug dealers. People go there to prey on the brokenness and vulnerability of our homeless friends. This empty lot is the epicenter for the dealing of crack in our neighborhood.

    On Easter Sunday at 6:30 a.m. this empty lot, normally a place of drugs and despair, of violence and squalor, of exploitation and death, will become an empty tomb.

    We are going to step into this tomb and find that God has renewed it.

    Where there was death there will be life.

    On Easter morning we will bear witness to this transformation through worship, through singing, through the proclamation of the Gospel, and through communion at God’s table.

    We are going to challenge the poverty that is, with a vision of the future that shall be.

    Church at the Square’s Sunrise Easter Service will proclaim that Christ is risen, that Christ is present, and that Christ brings the healing that our neighborhood needs.

    Will you join us and proclaim the Good News?

    We are all writing a story!

    We want to help you share yours.

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