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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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The cruelest month

The cross is the great obstacle to faith, but it offers rich spring soil for its growth

"We ought to thank him with a joyful heart for showing us such wonderful, rich, and immeasurable grace and mercy against death, hell, and sin, and to laud and love his grace rather than fearing death so greatly" ("A Sermon on Preparing to Die," Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings, edited by Timothy F. Lull, Fortress Press, 1989; page 654).

Easter is the 11th of April, a month the poet T.S. Eliot described as the cruelest, "breeding/
Lilacs out of the dead land ...." This Good Friday-Easter mystery each spring raises another question of theodicy: How can suffering make God-driven people?

Amid jelly beans, lilies and egg hunts, Christians must meditate on Christ's cross and
Luther's plea for "a joyful heart" in the face of anguish. Ernest Becker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Denial of Death (Free Press, 1997), himself dying of cancer, admitted: "I came to God because there was nothing left." Paul was right: The cross is the great obstacle to faith, but it also offers rich spring soil for its growth — lilacs from the dead land.


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