by David Phelps
"Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person." - Mother Teresa
Easter Sunday morning, during his sermon, our pastor, Allen, began by saying that someone had complained that it wasn't supposed to rain on Easter Sunday. Allen said he had responded by saying that Easter was a matter of what was happening inside the church and inside each of us, rather than any external circumstances. Later, he said that each of us has the gospel within us and it is up to us to let it out and tell others what we have experienced. He indicated the balloons that decorated the interior of the church and said we would soon be releasing them. He compared this to the gospel, and said we should be as willing to release the gospel as we are to release the balloons. He also said we have trouble releasing the sin, guilt and negative feelings that are inside of us.
After the service, when it came time to go outside and release our balloons, I noticed how some of the children reacted. Little Michael Tomory released his the moment he stepped out the door, anxious to get into the spirit of the moment. Other kids, like our daughter, Monica, didn't want to release their balloons at all. (In fact, Monica took hers home with her.)
In the same way, we are sometimes reluctant to release our grip on sin -- and its corresponding grip on us. But Jesus said, "If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away." (Matt. 5:29a NIV). It is not how we look on the outside that matters, but our internal condition (Matt. 5:27-28). Jesus compared the teachers of the law and the Pharisees to "whitewashed tombs," (Matt. 23:27-28) and said they seemed righteous on the outside but were ". . . full of hypocrisy and wickedness" on the inside (Matt. 23:28b NIV).
God's goodness can be inside of us too. Jesus calls us to be "the light of the world." (Matt. 5:14a). He told the people "See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness." (Luke 11:35 NIV). Jesus told the Pharisees that ". . . the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21b NIV). We are to behave as proper stewards of the good news of the kingdom (Matt. 25:14-30).
We are called to share the good news of Christ's coming. We cannot afford to be selfish. Just as we must be willing to let go of our sin, so too we must be willing to let go of the gospel. Sometimes, we are eager to let go of our sins and embrace the good news. Other times, we are reluctant to let go, afraid of the consequences of change. So too, we can be eager to let the gospel spread or we can be reluctant to let it go, afraid of what might happen if we truly share what God has done in our lives.
There are people who live outside the kingdom, who live in darkness, who don't have the light of Christ, who live with guilt and sin, and without hope. We can help them give up the things that are holding on to them. We can tell them how to have the light and the kingdom within themselves.
In Canada, and some other parts of the world, the day after Easter Sunday is called "Easter Monday." Perhaps they know something in Canada that we should know as well: The spirit of Easter doesn't end with the release of our balloons after services; instead, it goes on as long as we allow it to live within us. The story of Jesus didn't end when he was crucified, it didn't end when he was buried and it didn't end when he rose from the dead (Acts 1:10-11). This is why God sent the Holy Spirit to us, so that the gospel might continue in us and through us. Just as the balloons go on after we can no longer see them, the good news of Christ goes on as long as we send it forth in his name.
As young Michael watched his balloon rising into the sky, he exclaimed, "I threw it high!" May we always have a joyous spirit like Michael's to release the gospel into a waiting world. The kingdom of God is within us. Let us spread the kingdom high, far and wide until it reaches to the entire world.
"Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, 'The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, "Here it is," or "There it is," because the kingdom of God is within you.'" (Luke 17:20-21 NIV).