“He is risen. He is risen indeed!”
It is the oldest statement of belief in the Christian world. And in spite of all the differences among the world’s 2 billion or so Christians, it is a creed that unites all of us in the Easter proclamation. He is risen indeed is a unifying declaration that death does not get the final word; that things are not always as they appear; and that the very worst the world can dish out cannot snuff out hope. The light indeed shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.
The season of Easter cries out even louder the importance of our finding a way past our differences and into the light of the things that unite us; the common ground from which we can, to paraphrase Gandhi, “Be the difference you wish to see in the world.”
I have served the church here in Ahwatukee Foothills for more than 12 years and I have seen things and trends come and go. I have seen wildly rapid growth as well as major setbacks. I have seen great triumph and terrible tragedy. Such is the way of life. And while we may still be the world’s largest cul de sac, in many ways we have become a city of our own, facing all the challenges that come with that. But I also think that we are on the cusp of some very exciting times as we come together as a community to face those challenges.
Last month I attended a meeting of the pastors from several of our community’s congregations. We met, not to focus on our differences, but to pool our resources. We brainstormed the challenges our community faces and shared the ways our individual congregations are trying to address them. There are some very exciting things happening and about to happen. Most importantly, we committed to each other to share our resources, to facilitate the marriage of need and solution regardless of congregational name or theological or practical differences, understanding that at the heart of it, we are not competitors.
Later last month I attended a gathering at the Foothills Golf Club for Connecting to Serve. CTS is a non-profit organization operating out of Mountain View Lutheran Church that mobilizes volunteers with passion to deliver practical solutions in communities all over Arizona. The gathering included pastors and business people, government representatives and people from the community who desire to give back to the community. I suspect that in that crowd there were people of differing faiths and no faith at all, and yet we all share the common interest of making our own community a better place and serving those who have the greatest need. If you want to find out more about CTS, visit www.connectingtoserve.org.
Easter people travel down a path that leads to abundant life. So how are you participating in the light and life of your community? How can we seek our common ground rather than the differences that fragment us and lead only to darkness? How can all of us who participate in communities of faith, and those who do not, unite to be a positive and building influence on this wonderful place we call home?
Steve Hammer is the pastor at Esperanza Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee Foothills.