Pastor Todd Stocker: Easter is a life-changing event available to all
“Holy week and Easter covers a dichotomy of emotions,” said Trinity Lutheran Church Senior Executive Pastor Todd Stocker. Christians see Easter as a life-change event that is available to all of mankind.
“It’s not just for Christians,” Stocker said. “Salvation is a gift for everybody. The offer of freedom is there for the whole world.”
Holy week begins, of course, with Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
“Then we go from the celebration on Palm Sunday to the ups and downs of a dark week –- the arrest of Jesus, the betrayals and denials,” Stocker said. “Then comes Good Friday -– probably the worst day in history as man kills God. I’ve never understood why they call it ‘Good’ Friday.
“I guess the ‘Good’ part is that we couldn’t have Easter without ‘Good’ Friday. The empty tomb on Easter is what saved mankind. It’s like God wrote a check on Friday and cashed it on Sunday.
“The God of the universe would die for creation. Jesus dying on Friday is what it took make forgiveness of our sins possible. I think of it as a father/son relationship. I’d gladly die for my kids if that’s what it took. For us, it took the death of Jesus –- the sinless lamb.”
Stocker said the whole series of events was part of God’s plan.
“The world was perfect in the Garden of Eden,” he said. “When sin entered the world it took sacrifices to make up for that sin.”
The good news is that death and resurrection of Jesus is an event that is easy to believe because of all the historical evidence.
“There is plenty of evidence supporting the event of Jesus’ raising from the dead,” Stocker said.
The pastor’s oldest daughter Makenzie died in an auto accident in Houston, Texas, in June 2009.
“If somebody came to me and said Makenzie is alive, the first thing I’d say is ‘I want proof,’” he said.
“As for His resurrection, Jesus provided that proof when he came back from the grave. He was seen by hundreds of people.”
Why don’t some people believe?
“For some people, they choose not to believe because it could mean some things in their life have to change.”
Stocker said I Corinthians 15:17 sums it up best when Paul wrote: If Christ hasn’t been raised, then your faith is worthless…
“Of course, he said this because he knew the historical evidence supported Jesus’ resurrection,” Stocker said. “The good news for believers is that Christ died and was raised for us. There is life after death and the way to heaven was opened through Christ.”
His advice to non-believers: Keep asking questions.
“I recommend that to both believers and non-believers,” Stocker said. “Keep asking questions and find a church that welcomes those questions. We are all on a spiritual journey.
“There is a lot of pain in life –- broken marriages, losing a job, kids in trouble. There is no formula for conversion. In Jesus I found joy and hope and that’s available for all of us."
And, what about the Easter bunny?
“Like Christmas, there is a secular element to Easter,” Stocker said. “Some people pull away citing that eggs were part of a pagan worship –- don’t get too hung up on that. I say we should engage the culture. I just want people to get to know Jesus. Believe what he said and what he did. The evidence supports it.
“I encourage the community to find a church that fits and enjoy Easter. It a good time to search and celebrate. Even celebrating is a gift from God.”
If anyone is looking for Easter related Bible verses, he recommends the resurrection stories in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). For the joys of life, he recommends Psalm 118, which includes the verse (24) “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Stocker and his wife Kellie have three children, Nathan, 19, Maddie, 17, and his late daughter Makenzie who died at the age of 18 in 2009.
Stocker is from Arizona. He had done ministry work in Woodbury (Woodbury Lutheran Church) and Arizona before moving to Houston where he started a church before taking a position at Lutheran South Academy. The family left Houston after his daughter’s death and moved to Woodbury where he served two years as a campus pastor at Concordia University in St. Paul. He came to Trinity in Hudson in June 2012.
Trinity Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) has about 2,300 members. It has two campuses. The downtown campus and school (Trinity Academy) is at 1205 Sixth St. The Family Center Campus & Childcare is at 614 Badlands Road. For Easter, the services will explore the question “Empty? There are answers.”
--Maundy Thursday services are April 17 at 7 p.m. at the downtown campus.
--Good Friday events are April 18 and include a Children’s Good Friday service at 10 a.m. at the Family Center campus; Good Friday Tenebrae Service at 7 p.m. at the downtown campus; and Good Friday service at 7 p.m. at the Family Center campus.
--Easter services begin Saturday, April 19, with a 5 p.m. service at the Family Center campus; Sunday, April 20, at 9 and 10:30 a.m. at the Family Center campus and 7, 9 and 10:30 a.m. at the downtown campus.