A few years ago, the staff of Cedar Creek Church in Toledo, Ohio conducted a research project to investigate why people visited a church for the first time in awhile or the first time ever. Not “why” as in how they heard about the church, but “why” as in the underlying need which brought them inside the church’s doors. They then analyzed the responses and determined three primary categories of “why”:
Something Was Missing: People came to a church in the aftermath of the death of a loved one or colleague, when a personal or professional advancement failed to provide the kind of satisfaction they had anticipated, or following an incident which made them question whether the life they were living was truly meaningful.
Something Was Broken: A strained or unraveled marriage or other close relationship, a lost job, a child struggling to find their way, or an addiction of some kind.
Something Was New: Marriage, engagements, the birth of a child, geographic relocation, or some other new start.
Missing; Broken; New
As we arrive at Easter, let us keep those three words close to our hearts, minds and spirits, since they are not just reasons people enter a church for the first time in awhile or ever. They are also the daily state of our shared human condition.
To varying degrees, we all live some combination of “missing, broken, new” every day, in that, as Zen Buddhism suggests to us in its frequently paradoxical way, change is the only constant. If that truth hadn’t revealed itself to us before, it certainly has these past twelve months.
The context of our lives is never exactly the same today as it was yesterday. People and things are always being added to and subtracted from our lives through illness, death, birth, job changes, new homes and more. Somethings are building up while others are breaking down.
What the path from Lent to Easter hopefully reminds us each year though, is that for Christians, change isn’t the only constant.
God is too.
During the last part of his earthly life, Jesus experienced a great deal of missing and broken. And in the end, he also experienced new – new life. But all the way through, even when he doubted it, God was a constant for him. As God is a constant for us.
Easter reminds us that if we open ourselves up to it, God’s presence can take every instance of change in our lives and change us – make us stronger, less anxious and fearful, more flexible and resilient. It reminds us that if we open ourselves up to it, God’s presence will be with us in every “missing”, every “broken”, and every “new”.