A pastor from Louisville, Boulder County focused his Easter Message on hope and victory in the light of experiencing severe losses from the Marshall Fire that hit Colorado last December.
Church Leaders reported that Ascent Community Church Lead Pastor Bill Stephens' home was one of those that burned down in the Marshall Fire. Stephens reportedly spent the last three months reconciling with the reality of his losses, much like the rest of his congregation. This is why Stephens reportedly focused on hope and victory as his congregation gathered on Easter since it was what most of them needed recently.
A wildfire raged across 1,600 hectares of Boulder County on December 30, destroying hundreds of structures including homes. The fire was sparked by downed power lines and spread by strong winds of 100mph. It took a day after before the fire was put under control. By then, it had already spread to 6,000 hectares and displaced more than 30,000 people.
According to a January 31 report of Boulder County, the investigation on the cause and origin of the Marshall Fire was pending conclusion from several labs and experts. The county said it may take months before an official result could be released.
Stephens, in his sermon entitled "A Love That Goes The Distance," stressed that waking up with breath in one's lungs could be the greatest victory in one's life that one should really be grateful for. He underscored in the first few minutes of his sermon that sin and death did not win, but life did. He elaborated that this life lasts not only in this time but also in eternity. He pointed to Jesus' great love for man through His death on the cross that didn't end there.
"Death is not gonna win. That is Easter," Stephens stressed.
The pastor then recounted his experience from the Marshall Fire to drive his point on the message of Easter. He used photos taken during the fire during his preaching. He then contrasted this with the photo of daffodils that have sprung up around the remnants of his burned house. He said Easter represents new life despite the pain experienced by many on earth. He stressed that Easter conveys hope, new life, and rebirth.
Stephens also presented a wheelbarrow that contained items he collected from his burned property, which included the remains of his once 12-foot Christmas tree. Stephens pointed out that the pain one feels from seeing his losses was similar to what Jesus experienced on the cross while he endured the weight of all man's sins. Everyday life may not be all daffodils but he cited that through God's love in the sacrifice of His Son, man is able to experience new life and victory.
The pastor also disclosed that, with this reflection, he recently came to a point of telling himself to stop revisiting his loss. He told himself that he had enough already. It was time for him to move on with his life and start anew. He finally accepted that the tragedy he and his family experienced, was an opportunity God has given him to start again and trust God even more deeply.
"That's part of the richness of God's love. That (God) is going to give us the joy, and it's going to be in the heart of pain that we go through as well, and that just makes me draw closer to God," Stephens said.
Unlike his home, the Ascent Community Church building remained intact though it was damaged by smoke and was unusable for some months. The building was restored after cleanup efforts were conducted in January with the aid of 300 volunteers, which were mostly non-church members.