While I hope Explore Reading can appeal to a wide audience, I also assume most readers would rather I be a full, honest person than sterilize my work into bland generalities. So even though not everyone shares my interests or beliefs, I think at least some readers will find it interesting to hear my story and motivations interspersed into this guide to the city of Reading. That’s why I choose to speak openly about my love of strong beer, my pursuit of LGBT rights, and my faith in Jesus. As I get to know more people involved in the city, I enjoy hearing about their perspectives and hope to share their stories someday too. For now, here is my story about what Easter means for me and my connection to Reading.
A few months ago, I was driving in Reading with a friend of mine who looked out the window and said, “Nothing will ever turn this place around.”
I knew some people didn’t like Reading, but it was shocking to me that he thought the city’s hard times were absolutely permanent.
I was perplexed that someone could be so cynical towards the city’s ability to change. It will take a lot of work, sure, but never? Eventually, I realized our difference in perspective stemmed from a much deeper source. My friend has no problem admitting that he worships money, whereas I worship Jesus. And because of that difference of devotion, I have something he doesn’t.
I have a reason to believe in resurrection.
I have a reason to say, as Jesus did of the synagogue leader’s daughter, “She is not dead, but asleep.”
People laughed at Jesus when he said this, thinking he was a little delusional, grasping at unrealistic, glassy-eyed optimism. But then, at least according to Mark’s telling of the story, Jesus raised the girl back to life. She immediately started moving around, and Jesus told the others present to get her some food.
My friend might be right that only a miracle can turn this place around, but a miracle is what’s happening.
I believe God is working to restore life to a city that some people see as dead. She is starting to move, but she needs nourishment. I am thankful to see this nourishment coming to the city all the time through people of faith and goodwill: Christians, Muslims, atheists, agnostics, spiritual but not religious, and other folks too.
Each person has a somewhat different reason for believing things can change and that Reading is worth our time and effort.
My reason comes not just from these stories of God bringing life out of death, but from an even more basic principle that lies at the heart of my faith.
Christians have always had a wide diversity of beliefs, but there is something absolutely central to the faith of us all. We Christians have hope because we believe that God says to all people, “I love and accept you in spite of those things about you which are unlovable and unacceptable.”
And in turn, we the Church should join God in saying the same thing to the world and to places like Reading. “We love and accept you in spite of those things about you which are unlovable and unacceptable.” Of course we won’t say it as perfectly as God says it, but we try.
I look at a city like Reading, and I believe something good is happening here. I see Reading, and I see hope and promise. I see life, truth, and meaning coming to us most fully through the places that are hurting and broken.
Where the cynics see only death, I see hope for resurrection.