Death Always Precedes Resurrection: A Journey of Hope

In the innocence of childhood, where markers dance on paper and imagination knows no bounds, a child’s drawing can unveil profound truths. At our Maundy Thursday dinner and communion, one of our children proudly handed me this rendering of Jesus, resurrected and radiant. She was so proud to share it with me, addressed to the whole church, and I am honored to have received it on our behalf.

Unbeknownst to our young artist, the simplicity of her sketch held a weighty message: death always precedes resurrection. I think this poignant truth about life, death, and new life echoes through many an Easter sermon, searching for resonance in the chambers of our hearts. In our journey through life’s labyrinth, we encounter moments of despair, moments when it seems all hope is lost. Yet, it is precisely in these moments that the promise of resurrection shines brightest.

At UMCG, we have embraced this truth of how death always precedes resurrection in key ways. We are learning to let go of the old, the stagnant, the lifeless parts of the church so that new life and new ministry can emerge. It is a painful process sometimes, akin to the pruning of a vineyard, yet necessary for growth and transformation. This drawing and our children’s retelling of the Easter story during Dr. Greg’s children’s message this past Easter Sunday is a witness of the beauty of resurrection in our church, here and now.

But as we look to the horizon, we are reminded that our journey is far from over. Our denomination, the United Methodist Church, stands at a crossroads. The upcoming General Conference, scheduled for April 23 to May 5 in Charlotte, North Carolina, carries with it the weight of deferred decisions and unresolved tensions; it is the culmination of years of dialogue, debate, and discernment.

For those unfamiliar, The General Conference is the highest legislative body of the United Methodist Church. It is where delegates from around the world gather to discern the will of God for our denomination and to make decisions that shape our collective future. This upcoming conference carries the agenda postponed from 2020, and in many ways, it feels like a corpse awaiting resurrection.

Yet, in the midst of this lifelessness, I hold onto hope. For I know that death always precedes resurrection. Just as Jesus emerged from the tomb on that first Easter morning, so too, can new life spring forth from the ashes of our brokenness and division as a denomination. It is a hope rooted in faith, a faith that believes in the power of transformation. It is a hope that refuses to be extinguished by the darkness of despair. It is a hope that beckons us to act, to pray, to labor for the kingdom of God.

And so, I invite you to join me and United Methodists worldwide in prayer this month and throughout General Conference using the included prayer guide. May our delegates be filled with courage and discernment. Let us pray for unity, that we may be one body, united in love and purpose. May our leaders be courageous and faithful to the profound truth that even a child can understand: that death always precedes resurrection.

As we embark on this Eastertide journey of being a NextGen church as part of a denomination facing an important gathering, let us remember the words of the apostle Paul: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV).

Come what may, let us always cling to the promise of Easter morning, where death is swallowed up in victory and new life bursts forth with glorious splendor. For in the end, love will triumph, and all things will be made new. Giving us the courage and faith to embrace death, for death always precedes resurrection.