The Gospel: Mark 16:1-8
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
Message: "But they went anyway."
One of the commentators that I listened to this week highlighted that as his primary thought for The Sunday of the Resurrection - Easter Sunday.
He pointed out that Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome bought spices and headed for the tomb with one major question hanging over them: "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”
He spent some time reflecting on that question, but then he went on to encourage those of preparing Sermons for this morning to consider something that is implied, but not actually stated in the text. He drew attention to the fact that this small determined group continued on their way without getting an answer to their question.
He summarized their actions this way: "they went anyway." They didn't take an extra few minutes to go and find Peter, James, or John. They didn't employ someone they met along the way. They didn't wait, to make a decision, on who would be there to roll the stone away, in answer to their conversation. "they went anyway."
They acted on their faith. They acted out of their love. They didn't allow their uncertainty of the moment or their fear to stop them from doing what they felt appointed, or called to do. "They went anyway."
We, who have heard the story many times, we, who have the experience of many years of being taught about the resurrection, may well think their response, their decision is obvious. But let us stop and consider this for a few moments. These women exhibit great faith in deciding that they will go forward with their task despite not knowing what is going to happen or how it is going to happen.
Nothing like, what they are about to experience, had ever happened before. There are no precedents for what they are about to experience. They are walking into the unknown. "They went anyway."
They reach the tomb and the stone has been rolled away. All their anxiety and questioning have been answered in a powerfully miraculous way. They are the first to hear the news and to experience the joy of Jesus rising from the dead.
As we come to this wonderful celebration of the Resurrection, this wonderful Easter Sunday, today what questioning might we be doing? What is that we are anxious or uncertain about? How can we be like those three women? What might we be being called or appointed to do? What would it be like to have our friends and neighbors say about us: "they went anyway."
We have so much more to draw on than those three women don't we? We have the historical accounts in the Gospels. We have several thousand years of Christian experience by other people. We have the spiritual practices of our church. We have the liturgy of Sunday worship. We have our commitment to the Baptismal Covenant. We have our personal devotional life. We have the relationships we have developed in our community of believers here at Christ Church. We have all kinds of resources, books, videos, and even the world wide web to draw on for teaching and training resources.
If you were here, or if you watched the Good Friday Service online, you will have heard me read from 1 John 4:15-19, and then verse 21
"God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also."
I believe that is an ongoing challenge for us all from this Holy Week. As we move forward I believe that the Lord is going to be moving among us. I believe that we will have the opportunity to identify ways in which each one of us will be called and anointed or appointed to reach the community of Huron, to reach the region of North East Ohio, and then to go beyond those places, those boundaries, to the wider world, to engage with Jesus Christ's mission to the further most parts of the earth.
Now, you may already be responding to that challenge this morning by lining up, in your mind, the reasons why you just can't do that. Can I give you an example of someone who found a way to engage in the broad vision of missions from right here in our Parish? Some of you might think I am going to refer to Julia Schatz. We all know that Julia came out this Parish and went to serve with e3 Ministry partners. Serving in short-term mission trips to the Middle East. Or you might think I going to refer to Valerie Martinez. Valerie also has a connection with our Parish and she and her husband Nicasio are serving in Mexico. Or maybe you think I am going to talk about Ryan and Kelly who serve in Honduras. We have come to know about Ryan and Kelly since Paul and Darlene have come into our Parish family.
I am going to briefly talk about Barbara Steinmetz and her work through Home Touch Ministry. We shared Barbara's story in the Weekly Update recently. Barbara's ministry through Home Touch stretches across the world and it all came about because she was asking the Lord how she could expand her ministry opportunities? I am sure Barbara listed the "limitations" she faced in being able to "go into all the world and share the Gospel." Many of you could probably list similar "limitations." But the Lord heard Barbara's heart cry and he worked with and through her to bring about a new and innovative ministry here at Christ Church.
Barbara went to prison. Well, actually Barbara went to a prisoner's performance at Marion prison and heard about Home Touch from the lady she sat next to in the audience. Barbara found herself intrigued and found the way to become engaged in missions. She went anyway!
As we celebrate the resurrection this morning, it is important that we remember, that we are not just celebrating a historic event. We are celebrating the possibility of the resurrection, here and now, today. We are also celebrating the resurrection to come.
In the Eucharist, each week, I say the words: "All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ: By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever. AMEN."
By him, and with him and in him. Someone asked me this week what was intended by those words? I certainly don't time to fully explain this concept here this morning but let me try to touch on what is involved.
By him. All that needs to be done, in salvation and reconciliation of us has been done By him. Nothing more needed, nothing we can or need to contribute.
With him. We are included in the works accomplished by Jesus. So, we are now on a journey with him to eternal life. We are going With him.
In him. We are enfolded into his family, we are adopted sons and daughters in the family of God. Jesus stands before the Heavenly Father on our behalf and becomes our advocate. He takes on all that would stop us from having a relationship with the Heavenly Father. It is all wiped away and the Father sees us encompassed In him.
One of the challenges is that we tend to understand time as a linear concept. It starts back there, it is here now, it is something we will experience in the future.
I never thought I would use a Dr. Who reference to back up a theological point. Dr. Who for those who haven't heard of him is a time-traveling being who uses a time machine to travel back and forwards through time. His concept of time is a more fluid interpretation.
The Tenth Doctor said this about time: "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a nonlinear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey... stuff."
I don't know if that helps or just confuses the matter. Perhaps I should just say that time is a human construct. We use it to measure or explain events and moments. We feel like we are traveling from one point in time to another. God isn't constrained by time. God can step in and out of our time constructs. God can engage with us through past events to make present events more real and dynamic. God can take us, as we are, in the present and make us aware of the future potential and possibilities.
So, as we celebrate the historic events of Resurrection Sunday, may we seek to grasp something of the present reality and possibility of the Resurrection here and now, while we engage with the possibilities and the potential of the future.
May we be like those three women who went to the tomb. May we, as they did, put aside our questions and our doubts and fears and go anyway.
The Gospel: Matthew 28:1-10
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, `He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.' This is my message for you." So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."
Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to You, LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. Amen
Message: "Do not be afraid."
How many times do angels say that to those who encounter moments when God breaks into human time and experience.
Here in the Gospel of Matthew this morning the women come to the tomb and there is an earthquake, the stone rolls away from the entrance to the tomb and an angel appears, he has the appearance of lightning and his clothes are as white as snow. His appearance is so striking that hardened soldiers of the Roman occupation faint dead away.
The Angel seeks to reassure the women so that they can hear what he is about to say to them. He speaks the words that angels have said to generations of people: "Do not be afraid."
Throughout the Old Testament Angels have to reassure and calm the folk that they need to speak to. Early in the Gospels, there are several encounters where these are the first words that are spoken by an angel or groups of angels. There is something awesome about angels that strikes fear and dread into the hearts and minds of the human beings they encounter.
Well, I guess it must have worked because Matthew goes on to record what the angel has to say to the women as he commissions them to be the first evangelists of the risen Jesus Christ.
As we come to this celebration of the resurrection of Jesus do we come with some fear and dread of what we might encounter? Or have we become deadened or hardened to the momentous event that took place at the tomb two thousand years ago. Have we heard the story so many times that we are no longer at least amazed at what has happened?
Once we have overcome our fear what do we do next? Do we listen? Do we take the time to try to comprehend what it is that has happened here at this garden tomb?
Then are we so filled with the excitement of the moment that we have to rush away so that we can tell someone? The women don't hesitate they run to tell the disciples. They have not completely recovered from their fear of the angel and the events at the tomb, but they go on their way in an attempt to do what they have been asked to do.
Suddenly they are confronted by yet another astounding event. Jesus appears. He speaks to them. They clearly know who he is. They greet him and fall at his feet, they surround him, overcome with joy.
Jesus responds by once again instructing them to go and tell the disciples that he will go ahead of them and meet them in Galilee. He assures the women that this will not be his only appearance. "There they will see me."
It is interesting at this point that their fear seems to have faded. The presence of Jesus makes all the difference in the world for them. Angels strike fear and uncertainty into their hearts. Jesus brings assurance and peace.
In this Easter Season, I pray that we will all be able to lay aside our fears and our doubts as we encounter Jesus.
May we, like the women and disciples, be reassured by the news that Jesus is going ahead of us and that we will indeed see him again if we go to where he has instructed us to go.
May Jesus be our peace and assurance, in the midst of, the earthquakes and unusual circumstances that are facing in our lives and in the lives around us.
May we be ready to testify to the resurrection of Jesus just like the women who came to the tomb were.
May we go from this place, this morning, in peace. May we go to love and serve the Lord wherever he calls us.