In Sure & Certain Hope of the Resurrection: Ashley Ballard, 18 years old

March 27th,2024 Categories: Uncategorized

Dear Church:


We walk the way of the cross this week – in remembrance of all that Jesus experienced for our sakes, but also in acknowledgment of our own crosses we bear. None lands like our grief.


With that in mind, I want to share some news with you. Earlier this week, our own Deacon Candace Ballard notified us that this Palm Sunday – just blocks from our church – her niece, Ashley, was murdered on the street, shot in the back, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ashley had just celebrated her 18th birthday a few weeks ago. 


One appropriate way to understand Holy Week is that it builds a framework for wrongful, unjust death. Execution should have stopped with Jesus. But it continues with our babies and others, thousands of years later. No one is Jesus, nor does anyone need to be. But we must never forget that Jesus, too was murdered. And I cannot walk into Good Friday this week without thinking of sweet Ashley’s murder, too. A daughter of our church. A child of God. She did not live long enough for you to know her. We grieve this beyond measure. 


This is, by the way, why God gave us the lessons of Good Friday, the lessons of the cross. For such a time as this. When everything that can go wrong…does. Tragically. 


This is also why we walk the way of the cross, with Jesus, year after year. Because the vicissitudes and injustices of life require us to remember, somewhere deep inside, that murder is never the end of the story. Thanks be to Jesus. 


This week, we walk the way of the cross. Next week, we will join Ashley & her loved ones as we celebrate the beauty of her short but incredible life. I hope that you can join us for any piece of this. Even if you cannot, I know that you can join us in praying for everyone in grief. 


Our city – our world – is beset by gun and every form of violence invented yet. But that is not the only story. Let’s come together to show that our love is stronger than any weapon. 


In closing, I share this: also on Palm Sunday, Deacon Candace talked to me after church to make sure that there would be provisions for the people on Easter Sunday. Together with others, she started planning what the church could serve as we celebrate the resurrection. 


When she told us about Ashley, she took the time to make sure that we knew that she would still be offering her part. Not because she needs to! But because it matters so much to her. 


So come. Come to bear witness. Come to pray. Come to receive your blessing. 


And come to have some of beloved Candace’s chicken salad. (Done right.)


It’s exactly the right time for us to be together. 


In Jesus’ name, amen. 


Pax Christi,

Pastor Kaji