Reflections on Good Friday, Easter and the Virginia Tech shooting
Yesterdaywas April 14-Good Friday. Tomorrowis Easter!
In our culture, April 15 is always awful, simply because it's Tax Day. However, when the church calendar falls like it does today, this "in-between" day can be a day of sober yet joyful reflection. I'd encourage you to read Erin Petersen's entry about this day in our church's Holy Week devotional series.
Because I live in Blacksburg, Virginia and Easter falls on April 16, it has community significance. April 16, 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting.
The tragic day remains the deadliest shooting on a college campus. I wasn't here when it happened; we moved to Blacksburg in 2009. The community and campus, however, have a depth and brotherhood about them as a result of the event that distinguish them from others.
I have mixed emotions about how our culture remembers and marks events such as these. Because I'm a follower of Jesus, I know that only He can heal hearts, comfort grief and assure our future. In times of memorial, it is indeed a sad moment to witness people who grieve deeply without hope or understanding of life's significance. Those who do not have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus truly bear the brunt of evil and sin's brokenness. They are not meant to do so. Jesus has done that for us, and He promises to:
"...wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
I'm praying for the VT community and the friends and families that remain deeply impacted by the events of 10 years ago. There are still empty chairs around dinner tables at Easter as a result of this horrific event. There are empty hearts, and even as the VT community proclaimsits heart cry of "We will prevail," itknows deep down that unity cannot replace the loss of loved ones. These empty chairs remain so in this lifetime.
One thing that we look forward to on this "in-between" day in Holy Week - tomorrow we will celebrate an empty tomb. Easter announces that anempty tomb guarantees that for all those who trust in Jesus Christ, who call out to Him in faith for their salvation, empty chairs are conquered by an empty tomb. Death has been defeated, and there is hope for the future.
I love how Jamie Sanchez put it in a Facebook post this week:
Good Friday. A day intended for evil by so many, was made Good by our gracious Father.
In addition to my contemplation of gratefulness for Jesus' sacrificial love this Easter weekend, I'm also left recalling how many times God has turned something meant for evil into something used for His own (and my) good. I've seen this happen in my own life and in the lives of many friends time and time again. Where man may seek to destroy, God gives life. There is not one painful situation that God can not turn into good.
So, this Good Friday, as you reflect on the overarching story we celebrate this weekend, think too of how God is regularly transforming pain into peace, lies into truth, death into life.
"You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;your bones shall flourish like the grass;and the hand of the LORD shall be known to his servants, and he shall show his indignation against his enemies." (Isaiah 66:14)
She echoes Joseph in Genesis, when before the same brothers that had sold him into slavery, offered this Romans 8:28 insight in Genesis:
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20 NIV)
I'll wrap up with a song that has been echoing in my head these past two days -Same Power. The refrain is a raised, defiant fist to the brokenness of this world that we encounter - whether through murder or extortion, lies or disease, tornadoes or homelessness. Every person has access by faith to a world-creating, resurrection-enabling power in Jesus Christ that can steer you home and sustain you in these in-between moments.
I'd encourage everyone to find a local church tomorrow to attend, to worship, to be reminded and renewed that Jesus is alive. He loves. He heals. He offers hope in grief and direction in listlessness. If you're in Blacksburg, there are a lot of great churches. I attend (and preach) at Northstar Church, and we'd love to have you there if you don't have another church connection.
Virginia Tech connections (I wrote this entry on the day after the shooting in 2007)