Contributed by Aleese Baldwin, Pastor at Shepherd of the Cross Lutheran
on behalf of the Muscatine Ministerial Association

This week, millions of Christians around the world remember the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But when we take a close look at this story, it’s a pretty gruesome tale. Though Christians believe that we’re restored to a living relationship with God and each other because of Jesus, many have asked the question: “Why the cross?” Because if God really is an all-powerful God, then couldn’t God have just snapped God’s fingers, making everything okay again? Couldn’t the violence, the pain, the suffering and the anguish have been left out of the story?
These are important questions, as they shape the way we think about what it means to live in a world surrounded by suffering and pain. Because though we strive to make the world a better place, some days it just seems as though the effects of evil get the last word.
So why the cross? Maybe one answer could be so that evil doesn’t have the last word. Because in Christ’s suffering and death, Christians believe that God took on every ounce of human reality – the suffering, the pain, and even death itself – so that evil no longer would no longer be the final answer. Because of the cross, Christians believe that God isn’t absent from the darkness we experience; rather, God is in the midst of every situation, every experience, and every place . . . no matter how dark the night may be. Because in the cross, God chose to go to the depths of hell itself so that you would never be alone . . . and so that death wouldn’t be the final answer. And though the cross is a gruesome part of the story, the story of Easter doesn’t end there; instead, it ends in an empty tomb . . . a promise of life coming even from the depths of hell.
So why the suffering, the pain, and the gruesome story? Can’t we just skip to the happy Easter message? We could. But without the cross, without death, there can’t be life. So whether you’ll celebrate this story this week or not, know that you aren’t alone. God’s love is out there for you, offering you newness of life. And the love of this community is there to surround you with hope. So go ahead; take a look around. Because with eyes wide open, you might be surprised to see the love of this community that’s ready to envelop you with open arms . . . even amidst the darkest realities of our lives.