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FROM THE BISHOP DAVID GRAVES In January of 2018, Nancy, and I journeyed with 140 people to the Holy Land where we visited the areas of Galilee, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the region ...
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The stone will roll away

March 15, 2021

A time of darkness and confusion filled with more questions than answers. Too many people in too small a space with no meaningful communication occurring. Heart-felt arguments regarding the best practices in serving God. Is it spring 2021 or Passover in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago? What’s old is new again.

During this Lenten season, we are to transport ourselves, at least spiritually, to the last days of Jesus’s ministry among his disciples. After traveling for years throughout Galilee, Samaria, and Judaea ministering and teaching to all who would listen, Jesus and his followers entered Jerusalem, a walled city ruled by Romans, to honor the season of Passover. The city, which is usually busy, has now double the normal population which means double the noise, confusion, animals, and traffic. Basically, it’s St. Simons Island during the 4th of July, and nerves are frayed.

Having lived on St. Simons Island for 30 years, my approach to a busy holiday weekend is to avoid all public places and smile at everyone. Anyway, they’ll soon be gone and the island will return to normal. It’s what I would have advised Jesus to do. Keep your head down and don’t step on anyone’s toes.

But, if I had been in Jerusalem during this historic Passover and I had advised Jesus with my “local” knowledge, I must admit that he wouldn’t have listened. It’s not what he did. Instead, Jesus arrived triumphantly on a donkey for all to see. He cursed a fig tree and overturned tables of money changers at the Temple. Jesus avoided an ambush and delivered a sermon at the Mount of Olives discussing the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age. He humbly washed his disciples’ feet and taught them a completely new method of remembrance to be used after he was gone, a thought which was inconceivable to these devout followers. While praying in the Garden of Gethsemane later that night, Jesus was arrested and the end began…or the beginning ended.

Fast forward to this Lenten season with the presidential election behind us, the pandemic all around us, and General Conference before us. It has been a dark and confusing time filled with more questions than answers. There are too many people in our homes and not enough in-person communication. And, by the way, what is the best way to serve God and who should do it?

If the story ended here, this column would probably not be appropriate to publish, but it doesn’t end here. After the unimaginable sorrow and true heartbreak of Jesus’s crucification and death, dawn broke. The morning came. The stone was rolled away. Jesus had risen.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” Matthew 28:5-7

As the historian for the South Georgia Conference, I can tell you where we’ve been, but I can’t tell you where we’re going or how we’re going to get there. If I could, the Ministry of Memory might be renamed the Ministry of What’s To Come. As the conference historian, however, I can tell you, using our Biblical history, that the dawn will break. The stone will roll away. Jesus will rise. The dark, confusing times might be at hand, but they will end and, after unimaginable sorrow, God’s plan will be revealed and it will be more glorious than anything we can imagine.

And we all say together, thanks be to God!

Anne Packard serves as Conference Historian and director of the Arthur J. Moore Methodist Museum on St. Simons Island. Contact her at director@mooremuseum.org.

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