Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter Weekend

Below is an update on my Easter weekend. It was originally posted to the Rebirth: East St. Louis blog (where I work). Enjoy reading it. For the full posts, and some sweet pictures and video, check out:
An East St. Louis Easter
Video and Pics

I hope everyone had a good Easter weekend. Mine was a particularly good Easter. I was able to go home, be with family, see friends and enjoy some really good food! What made it even better, is that I had the unique opportunity this weekend to share all of those things with a couple of our East St. Louis guys, Cortez Spencer and Luther Wright. Yes, that is correct. This weekend I had the privilege of having Cortez and Luther come up and spend Saturday and Sunday with my family and me. The weekend was an awesome experience on many different levels.
 First, the weekend was a great chance to simply spend some quality time with Cortez and Luther, continuing to build our relationship and get to know them better. We were able to play some pickup basketball, meet several of my teammates from college, cookout on Saturday night, go to church on Sunday, and have an Easter feast with the rest of my extended family. I really think the weekend, and being in a different context, allowed for several unique conversations about God, life, circumstances, etc… As you can imagine, an entire weekend along with a 4.5 hour car ride is a great chance to share in some good conversation.
 Also, as I reflect back on the weekend, I think it was a great picture of reconciliation. In the gospel, Jesus breaks down all the existing barriers and walls that both separate us from God, and that separate us from each other. Because of Good Friday (Christ’s death) and Easter (Christ’s resurrection), these barriers are completely shattered. The gospel reconciles us to God, and also reconciles us to each other. For those who don’t know, I grew up in Wheaton, IL, which, socio-economically, may be the polar opposite of East St. Louis. It’s affluent, the crime rate is nearly non-existent, and the population is mostly white. Having Cortez and Luther up was a huge reminder of how Jesus unites us. Only the gospel can bring together a random guy from Wheaton, IL and two sophomore high schoolers from East St. Louis together.  As the Apostle Paul writes, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” In other words, Jesus breaks down the religious, racial, ethnic, geographic, and economic barriers that would otherwise separate us. He completely shatters the hostility that exists between us (Ephesians 2). I think Cortez and Luther coming up to Wheaton was a picture of how Christ has broken down certain barriers for all of us. It was a beautiful scene to be sitting around a table, sharing meals with each other, learning from one another, and mutually enjoying good fellowship with one another. There are many differences that exist between us, but in Christ, we are one. We are united under the good news of Jesus. Praise God for the way he not only reconciles us to God, but also reconciles us to each other!
 I think the coolest thing about the weekend was simply the opportunity for Cortez, Luther and I to mutually share in each other’s lives’. Shane and I spend a great deal of time in East St. Louis. We are at the school, in the kids’ neighborhoods, on the football field. We have tons of opportunities to share in their life. This weekend was such a great chance to have two guys share and be a part of my life. I can’t even describe how blessed I have been through guys like Cortez and Luther, and in particular, how much of a blessing it was to have them spend the weekend with my family. This weekend wasn’t a one-way exchange. I can recall how Cortez was able to play the piano with my nana (Grandma). At one point, she was improvising Amazing Grace on the piano while Cortez was belting out the words. Imagine that! An 86 year old Italian women from the south side of Chicago collaborating with a 17 year old African-American from East St. Louis to play a rendition of Amazing Grace. It was priceless! It was also cool to see the way in which Cortez and Luther were able to encourage the many people they met this past weekend. Their stories, and the evident ways in which God is working in their lives were such a blessing to those who they met. This weekend certainly was not a one-way exchange. Rather, I’d argue Cortez and Luther were much more of a blessing to my family and I than we were to them. Their courage in traveling up to a completely foreign place, to stay with a bunch of strangers is not only commendable, but is an inspiration. I am thankful for these guys!

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