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  • Writer's pictureTanner Hogue

Easter is one of those times of the year that the church gets really excited. At some level, I get it. It’s an awesome occasion. But at the same time, taking off the Pastor hat, I don’t get it. What’s the big deal? Isn’t Jesus always risen from the dead? Why do we need one day to specifically remember that? This year I’ve spent a little more time reflecting on that question, and here’s what my mind keeps being drawn to.

1.The power of the calendar

A calendar is a really powerful tool. If you see someone’s personal calendar, you can tell what they value most by what they spend their time doing. So it has been with the Christian Church since Jesus ascended over 2,000 years ago. During the season of Lent that leads up to Easter, we see the Church put the crucifixion and resurrection on the calendar. Perhaps many of the Protestants who would even read something like this article don’t practice Lent. That’s okay. This is not an article about Lent, per se. You see, the resurrection is a big deal precisely because of the brokenness that existed and required our Lord to suffer and die. So the season of Lent is a 40-day period in which the Church globally chooses to mourn, weep, fast, deny themselves, and anticipate the need for Christ and his death, burial, and resurrection. If the Lent season is a time for fasting and lamenting, Easter is the day for feasting and celebrating. We appreciate the resurrection and its celebration on Easter most when we remember the reason Christ needed to be resurrected. It’s because he was pierced for our transgressions on Good Friday. So quite literally, the Easter season is a 40-day period of intentional reflection out of 365 days in a year. 40 days of weeping and denial that should not be a mere tradition, but something more like participation.

2.The power of participation

Participation is getting in on the action. Unfortunately, many see Easter as primarily like a party thrown to remember an event. In some ways it is, but in other ways it is much more than that. Easter isn’t a party for a family member we know we are supposed to love, and obligingly get together to pay our respects to. No, Easter isn’t just Jesus’ story, it is the Church’s story. We too have died with Christ. We are now risen with him, and by the Spirit we walk with him. Therefore, Easter is the Church’s way of remembering that we are no longer the old Adam. The old is gone. The new has come. We are new in this Christ. In Jesus. In the new Adam. And to the extent that we enter into Christ’s journey to the cross and his subsequent resurrection, we will be sent back out in the Spirit’s power the way the original disciples were. If we participate with him in a death like his, surely we will participate in a resurrection like his.

3. The power of remembrance

There is nothing quite like memory to stir up one’s sense of identity. Whenever an athlete is having a rough stretch, they simply need to remember who they are, watch old clips, and remember the habits necessary to gain their old form. You see, memory can be a tool of great pain or great glory. Memory is glorious when it serves the purpose of anchoring one to his true self more and more. That’s what happens at Easter. We remember what Christ has done. We remember that our sin put Christ there. We remember that on the cross Christ chose to die for us. We remember him being taken away as Barabbas goes free. We see ourselves in the story. We see ourselves in Peter’s denial. We see ourselves in Thomas’ rash declaration that he will never believe. Easter isn’t about remembering we are the good guys. Easter is about remembering that Jesus has saved us at the cost of his life when we had nothing to offer, and we still don’t apart from him.

4. The power of the cross

There is nothing quite like the cross of Calvary, where Jesus bled and died for me. On that tree, Jesus died for the sins of the world. That tree is not about the good guys. It’s about the good guy. Trading places with the bad. The cross is not about good people promising to do better next time. The cross isn’t about progressing forward in our morality. The cross is about transformation from death to life. There is nothing else like it. There is no one like Jesus.

This Easter, on the actual day of celebration, go and meditate on the wondrous nature of the cross and the resurrection. Think about the lengths to which God has gone to show he wants to live with you. And may I be so bold as to suggest how to approach Easter next year? Don’t limit yourself to one day to get in on the action.

  • Andrew Avery

“Why are you excited about the launch?”

It is a culmination of God faithfully guiding our family’s steps into his plan for us. 

It was the summer before the announcement of Port City Church, and my wife and I were living in Boston, MA, for an internship I had before my senior year of college. This time was especially difficult. Not only were we freshly married and thrown into a new environment, but we also had to make the tough decision of whether we wanted to move 15 hours away from our family and friends to Boston. After three months of prayer and hard conversations, we ended up agreeing that Boston was not the right move. However, that left us with no options to consider as I entered my senior year.

I distinctly remember one conversation from that summer though. It was about what kind of church we would want to attend once we inevitably moved from Greensboro. We both agreed that we wanted to be within a five-hour radius of our family. We wanted to be in a diverse area. We loved college ministry, so we wanted to be in a place with a strong college presence. Finally, we wanted to find a smaller church where the community would feel tight-knit. A few weeks after we returned to Greensboro, Port City Church was announced.

Upon researching Norfolk, we found it to be almost exactly five hours from my wife’s family and just three hours from my family. Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University’s sports and college presence radiate through the area. The population is incredibly diverse. Finally, what is more tight-knit than a start-up church?! 

It was as if the Lord was saying, “Here it is!” For that reason, we spent one evening talking about it, and we decided to go.

A year and a half later, we are two days away from launch. I said before in my answer that the launch is a culmination. That is because the goal is not for us to say that we did it but to point upward in recognition that this is a microcosm of God’s work. The launch is a continuation of God’s plan to use us to restore the world, Norfolk included. He is restoring while we encourage the discouraged person at work, while we make our appeal to atheists on a jog, while we are grabbing lunch with that apathetic neighbor in our complex. The launch announces to Norfolk that there are people ready to befriend them, serve them, and invite them into God’s family.

  • Katelyn Sheets

“As cities go, so goes the world.” From the moment Norfolk was named over my dinner table, I was not able to get it out of my mind. Being from southeast Virginia, I was vaguely familiar with this port city and its impact. A city known for its civilian and naval ports, people, ideas and supplies flow in and out like the subtle rise and fall of the tides. The city is in constant movement, with many here to stay and even more here only for a temporary period of time. It is a city where many come to work and play but not all stay to do everyday life. It is a city that displays human ingenuity through colossal ships and complex bridges and tunnels. It is a city used to navigating around the many trains that traverse the city shipping in supplies. It is a city of diverse people that will be moving to diverse places in the future. So, why Norfolk? My heart was initially captured by the strategic impact this city could have if the gospel shipped out through a people that loved Jesus. 

But as we have been here for five months, I have faces that answer the question of “Why Norfolk?” I have become less compelled by the strategic and more about the personal. I am friends with neighbors and frequent spaces that were designed by a God for God. There is a search for meaning and value that can only be found in the identity God wants to give us. There is a search for resolution, healing and peace that can only be fully brought about in the gospel. There is a search for the spiritual in some very dark places that need to be exposed to the light of the Holy Spirit. These searches are no longer obscure ideas but are tangible concerns of my new coworkers, friends and acquaintances in this city. And, while thinking about how much I want those in this city to reach the world is a consideration, my heart has become more captured by the idea of the people here that will stay. And I want to be one of them.

“Why Norfolk?” We are here for the long haul, as long as the Lord will let us. In a city that is always changing, we seek to display an immutable God, a God who does not change. We will do this through our flawed stumblings for consistent conversations at work, support of our community centers and schools, weekly meetups with running friends and intentional conversations to know neighbors. We are hoping and praying that these fragments of conversations and life will be used for God to draw hearts to himself. Caring for Norfolk because God cares about Norfolk compels us.

Before moving, I was asked, “Why would you want to move to that God-forsaken place?” I was shocked at the abrasive nature of the question, feeling offended for my soon to be new home and even more offended for the great God that we serve. We serve a God that loves this city and has great plans for its thriving. He is a God worthy of reframing the question: “Why NOT Norfolk?” 

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