This Sunday is Easter Sunday! This culmination of Holy Week brings us to a lively celebration of the resurrection of Jesus! Our livestream brings us the opportunity to connect even as we remain socially distant.
Frankly, it may feel difficult to celebrate Easter without being able to gather together. This is not an easy thing! It feels like the wilderness that we are enduring will last way beyond the 40 days of lent. Will it be more like the 40 years endured by the ancient Israelites? I believe we must be courageous in this time, seeking the presence of Christ when we may feel the deepest sorrow. I believe when we seek the presence of Jesus, we will be surprised at what we find!
Jesus is risen! Hallelujah! Death isn’t the end! Love doesn’t die!
John 20:1-20 (CEB)
1Early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2She ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him.” 3Peter and the other disciple left to go to the tomb. 4They were running together, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and was the first to arrive at the tomb. 5Bending down to take a look, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he didn’t go in. 6Following him, Simon Peter entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. 7He also saw the face cloth that had been on Jesus’ head. It wasn’t with the other clothes but was folded up in its own place. 8Then the other disciple, the one who arrived at the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9They didn’t yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to the place where they were staying.
Jesus appears to Mary
11Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. 12She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. 13The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” 14As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus.
15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”
16Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher).
17Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.
Jesus appears to the disciples
19It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy.
Consider these questions:
- The text begins “early in the morning.” Is “early” the same for you now? How has your schedule changed? What do you do first thing on most mornings? What did you do first today?
- What emotions do you think Peter and the other disciple were experiencing? What emotions do you think Mary was experiencing? Do you think these emotions changed during their respective interactions? How?
- How do you think the Easter celebration can change you? How do you think the Easter celebration can change others? How can you help to foster that change?
Post-Worship Update on 4/14
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
Sunday’s Easter Celebration was certainly a new experience of the resurrection story! Not only was this our first-ever digital-only Easter celebration, but for many of us was the first time having a two-Pastor message complete with ASL interpreters.
Note: For those who were concerned, the video of worship seems to show very close proximity between ASL signers and preachers. Please note that strict 6+ft. perimeters were in place throughout the service.
Pastor Lydia referenced both the humor but also isolation that we’re all experiencing today. This is surely affecting us differently as individuals, but likely the experience is changing over time as well. Perhaps you feel as though this has been overkill and has gone on long enough. Perhaps you feel as though even the current stay-at-home orders in place are not enough. Pastor Lydia reminds us that the “norms” that we may be missing in this different Easter celebration are not really what we should focus on. At its core, Easter is about hope.
My own submission to the message was about acknowledging the difficulty of having hope in a time such as this. Indeed, I think we will have to be courageous in order to be hopeful. Like Jesus in the wilderness, like the ancient Israelites in the desert, we are in unknown and unexperienced places. But as the text progresses—from Mary at the tomb to the disciples looking in to Mary seeing the angels before finally seeing Jesus—the text leads us forward step-by-step. These steps are courageous! Are we willing to be courageous and to take the next step in our lives of faith in these uncertain times?
Consider these questions:
- What was different for you in this year’s Easter celebration? Did you watch the church service live (during the 9am hour) or later? How did you connect with others on Sunday? What brought a smile to your face? What did you miss?
- Asked during the sermon: Are you/we willing to take the next step of faith into hope, into the first glimmer of joy? Are you/we ready in these times to have the courage to practice “sacred distancing,” and—when we are given the signs that we might gather again—to gather again to sing the songs we’ve known our entire lives and proclaim Christ as risen?