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As Though For the Last Time

(a meditation for Maundy Thursday 2019, based on Luke 22:7-23)

In his introduction of a booklet detailing the preparations and liturgy for an interfaith Passover Celebration, Gabe Huck writes the following: “There is a time when time stands still, motionless.  There is a time in religious life when time becomes eternal, beyond recount, beyond hour divisions.  There is a time when we leave the present to go back in memory, feeling and prayer to the past, to a past that is the very ground of our being.  There is a time when we return to the sources.  Such a time is Passover.”

And, might I add here, such a time is Holy Week, and in particular, Maundy Thursday.

It’s on nights and during services such as these that I am reminded of just how much of what we do in our worship is a matter of history, tradition and even, dare I say it… routine.  Take the way that we “do” communion in the church; that is, how we share in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  It is a part of our worship that steeped with ritual rooted in a very specific and appropriate liturgy that dates from the very beginnings of our Christian faith.  From the need for prayerful confession and pardon prior to coming to the table, through the so-called “words of institution” as spoken by Jesus himself, to the very ways that we actually partake of the bread and wine; these are things that happen – and have always happened (!) – just about every time we come to share in the bread and the cup.  With some minor variations, you see, in every church tradition, in every local congregation, in every “where two or more are gathered” amongst the faithful there is a similar sense of continuity and tradition in our communion; to the point where sometimes I fear it risks becoming something commonplace in our life together.

But not tonight.

Tonight, it’s different; tonight is for us that time when time truly “stands still, motionless,” a time when we do “leave the present to go back in memory,” coming together in humble imitation of a Passover Celebration long ago; of a truly holy meal that was the first and in a very real way the last of its kind.

Actually, as Luke records the story, at least leading up to that that fateful night there was nothing particularly unusual about this Passover meal – the seder – which was and is amongst Jews the festive celebration of the Exodus from Egypt and “God’s redemptive liberation of Israel from slavery and spiritual misery,” (from “The Passover Celebration”), a huge feast built upon the remembrance of things past and an expression of true faith.  It was also a celebration largely shared at home amongst family and friends; and so, like everyone else who was in Jerusalem that week, Jesus and his disciples would most definitely have shared in such a table celebration. So of course there would be a great deal of preparation involved and lots of ritual throughout, which is why much s said about Peter and John being sent to find the “man carrying a jar of water,” and going to “the large room upstairs” where “they prepared the Passover meal.”  It was tradition; something that’s still done by faithful Jews the world over.

But this time, you see, it was different.  To begin with, Jesus makes a point of saying how much he’d been looking forward to sharing this Passover meal with them “before I enter my time of suffering,” [The Message] and how it would be the last one they’d eat together until they’d do so together in the Kingdom of God!  “I’ll not drink wine again” until that Kingdom comes.  And then, again after having given thanks and broken the bread according to tradition, Jesus gave it to his disciples and said, “This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”  Same thing after supper with the cup:  “This cup is the new covenant written in my blood, blood poured out for you.”

Suffering?  A last meal?  A new covenant written in blood? One thing was for certain; this wasn’t the usual liturgy employed at a Passover celebration!  And then there was all of Jesus’ talk about betrayal, and how the Son of Man was going down a path that had already been marked out, “but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!”  You have to wonder what the disciples were thinking at that moment; I mean, it’s not like Jesus hadn’t already spoken of how the Son of Man would be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, but here?  Now?  At the very moment we’re gathering to feast and rejoice at God’s providence and redemptive power for his people Israel, what do you even mean by suggesting  the Son of Man is to be betrayed?  Who would ever… who could ever do something like that?

It was unsettling, to say the very least, and it’s no wonder that as Luke tells the story, almost immediately the disciples start squabbling a bit amongst themselves and then, of course, Peter – good ol’ Peter – offers up his verbal assurance that he would never, ever betray Jesus, even as Jesus predicts that this denial would, in fact, happen not once but three times!  All at once this Passover celebration had become something different, and I have to imagine that in those final moments of that Maundy Thursday evening – though they didn’t yet have a clue as to just how much things were about to change forever, and even less why – somewhere down deep in their hearts the disciples knew that they were all together sharing this sacred meal in the same time-honored way that they’d always done for the last time.

And they could not have possibly articulated this, but I also wonder if when Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them – just before the betrayal; before the denials of one and the desertion of many; before the arrest and the scourging, the jeers and mocking; before the cries for his execution; before they nailed his hands and feet to a wooden cross; before the hours and hours of agonizing pain and suffering as the life drained out of him; before he finally breathed his last; just before everything on earth and heaven shifted forever – I wonder if in that singular moment of “communion” offered to them by their Master and friend Jesus if perhaps time stood still for the disciples, motionless; in anticipation of eternity entering in.

I wonder.

In a few moments, you and I will return to feast at the Lord’s Table, to once again know his presence in broken bread and in a shared cup.  And though tonight we’ll do so in a way different than how we usually share communion in our worship here, nonetheless, we’ll be following a liturgy and tradition that’s been ours for generations as the Church of Jesus Christ.  So in many ways, tonight should be no different than any other time we eat a piece of bread and share a tiny sip of wine from a common cup…

…except tonight it is different.

Tonight we remember the night long ago when this holy meal was shared the first time; how it was given, and what Jesus said about it, and how the disciples responded and what it all meant, especially as we remember everything that was to follow. We remember how praise and celebration gave way to betrayal and desertion; how “hosanna” became “crucify,” and how the claim that “I will never deny you” becomes “I don’t know the man;” and ultimately, we are reminded of how the sins of all humanity are atoned by the sacrifice of the divine.  Tonight, in the bread and the wine, we’ll remember all that happened on that fateful night; but also, if we’re remembering correctly and well,  we’ll also recall how we were there when they crucified our Lord and how, in so many ways, in our weakness, shame and utter humanity, we still are.

There’s nothing routine or commonplace about this meal we’re about to share, beloved.  This is no less than the gift of a holy meal, one that reminds us of whose we are, and what we have been given, now and eternally, by grace and infinite love. So let us come to the table; but not out of a sense of tradition or routine, nor because it’s what’s expected of us.  On this night of nights, let us come to this holy feast with open and willing hearts, ready to receive all that our Lord is so wanting to give to us;  let us approach this table as though we are coming to this meal for the very first time… and also the last.

Thanks be to God in Jesus Christ our Savior.

AMEN.

c. 2019  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

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Posted by on April 18, 2019 in Communion, Holy Week, Jesus, Lent

 

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When the Stones Shout Out

(a sermon for April 14, 2019, Palm Sunday, based on Luke 19:28-40 and Philippians 2:5-11)

There are just some moments in life for which nothing else will do but loud, joyous, full-throated, totally spontaneous yet wholly intentional, and ultimately unbridled shouts of praise!

The Red Sox win the World Series; the Patriots win the Super Bowl… again (!); or you’re at a concert and you’ve just heard your favorite singer give the most amazing musical performance ever.  Or it’s that moment you suddenly know, without any shadow of any doubt, that you’re in love and you “don’t care who knows it (!),” or it’s what happens when you get the news you’re going to be parents – or grandparents (!) – or maybe it’s that singular, once in a lifetime,  experience of revelation when all at once and maybe just for an instant, everything in your life makes perfect sense!  But whatever it is, understand that more than just a rousing cheer what I’m talking about here is this instinctive, primal, even primordial need and compulsion to cry out for joy!  It’s the praise that emanates from head, heart and soul, and it’s quite literally wired into our DNA:  Theodore J. Wardlaw of Austin Presbyterian Seminary in Texas writes that even babies know that kind of praise.  “She doesn’t know her own name; she doesn’t know the name of God; she cannot walk and she cannot talk; but she knows even at that early age that – with the beginning of dawn – the only appropriate thing to do is to sing a baby song of praise.”

Actually, scripture is filled with examples of that kind of joyous praise: the Psalmist using every imaginable instrument – from “lute and harp” to “loud clanging cymbals” – in order to proclaim, “Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!” (150:3-6); Mary reacting to the news of the Christ Child growing in her womb, “’My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.’” (Luke 1:46-47); or even the awe struck reaction of good ol’ “Doubting” Thomas when he finally understood that the Risen Christ was standing right before him:  “’My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).  Once again, it is in us to praise; but even more than this, as Wardlaw goes on to say, all this seems to suggest “that praise lies beneath everything else as nothing less than the vigorous intentionality of God… because nothing is more appropriate or more timely than praise.”

And that, beloved, is in good part what the “triumphal entry” of Palm Sunday is all about.

Now this account of the Palm Sunday parade along the streets of Jerusalem is one of a handful of stories that appear in all four of the gospels; which tells us, first of all, just how important of an event it was in the telling of the story of Jesus’ life and ministry and most especially in how it figures into everything else that is about to unfold.  This is, at least in a storytelling sense, the true beginning of the Passion story; so it’s significant in that sense alone.  It’s also kind of an unusual story where Jesus is concerned, as it does seem at first glance to be “the one departure from Jesus’ aversion to acclaim.” (Philip Yancey, “The Jesus I Never Knew.”) What with all the Hosanna shouting and the adoring crowds spreading clothes and tree branches across the road, it’s to say the least a unique moment; for “though Jesus usually recoiled from such displays of fanaticism, this time he let them yell.”

In fact, did you notice something about Luke’s version of this story we shared this morning?  For one thing, there’s not a palm or even a “Hosanna” to be found!  In this version, though there is reference made to people “spreading their cloaks on the road,” as well as on the back of the colt on which Jesus was riding (and we do get the account as to circumstances how that colt was acquired), as Luke tells the story you really don’t get any sense that there were palm branches being waved in the air, nor is there any reference to a “happy throng” of children dancing ahead of the approaching Messiah!

And yet, despite the conspicuous absence of, as the song goes, the “green palms and blossoms gay” that was part and parcel of “the festal preparation,” there is no absence of utter joy and unbridled praise, starting from the very moment that Jesus was “approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives” down into the city of Jerusalem and “the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power they had seen, saying ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’”   It’s funny, you know; a phrase that we use a lot today would seem to apply in this circumstance: that whole thing appeared to happen organically; but the truth of it that Jesus’ disciples just “did what came naturally,” [Wardlaw] and so did everyone else!   The closer this “triumphal entry” came to the city itself, the more people there were who were moved to join them; and the more people who gathered along the city streets or who followed on behind, or who ran on ahead to lay down their cloaks for a makeshift royal carpet and yes, to wave some palm branches in the air in royal tribute to us, the louder the shouting became!  In that moment of grand celebration and of prophetic fulfillment, “They sensed, somewhere in their guts, that nothing was more appropriate or timely” – or absolutely required at that moment (!) – than for them to burst forth shouts of praise!

And you know what happened next; it was so joyous, so spontaneous and uncontrollable, so filled with praise and thanksgiving unto God and the King who comes in his name, and perhaps most of all,  so very, very loud that immediately the powers that be, that is the gathered Pharisees, had to put a stop to it.  And so they went to Jesus – actually, in the true fashion of Pharisees in every place and time they probably sent a committee (!) – and in the name of all things ordered and correct, they told him, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!” [The Message]  Order them to stop…. Now!

And to this, Jesus simply responds – and I have to imagine it’s with a sad smile and a shake of the head – “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

It’s an amazing response; one that affirms that what was happening that morning on those streets of Jerusalem was not only appropriate, it was necessary; this was praise that needed to be expressed, the clear vision of God’s glory being proclaimed with singular and overwhelming intensity!  And that’s how we usually read that verse, isn’t it; that you can tell the “rabble to be quiet” all you want, but you can’t stop the praising.  Tell this crowd to stop its praising, and the very rocks that line the walls of this sacred city of Jerusalem will do it for them!  Don’t you see, you can’t stop it:  no matter what you do, you Pharisees, the shouting will continue and all of creation will keep on singing and praising God’s holy name: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”  Hosanna in the highest!

And you know, really, that should have been the end of it right there; at this point, the Pharisees should have simply gone home grumbling, the celebration should have continued unabated and there should have been all rejoicing at the coming of God’s Messiah. Or at least that’s how it should have been. But of course, as we know, there was more to it than that.

It’s been pointed out by some biblical scholars that along with the idea that the crowd’s shouting could not possibly have been silenced, Jesus’ words about the stones crying also may well have been a reference to some words of judgment spoken by the prophet Habakkuk that says that going against God would make “the very stones… cry out from the wall… the plaster respond[ing] from the woodwork.” [2:11]. There’s also a passage from the Old Testament Book of Joshua that speaks of a stone serving as a witness to the faithlessness of God’s people [24:27]  So now we have this incredible faith-filled proclamation of God’s providence and salvation, and what does Jesus say to the Pharisees who would shut it all down, and who would condemn Jesus, the very one who comes in the name of God, to death, “even death on a cross?”

He says, even in the silence the stones would shout out… but this time in judgment.

It’s interesting, you know; and as many times as I return to this story and begin my own walk of faith and discipleship on this so-named “holy” week I can scarcely wrap my mind and heart around it: how on Sunday there’s this huge crowd waving palms and shouting their hosannas unto Jesus, the one known to them, proclaimed by them as their Messiah, an yet come Friday morning, the same crowds are angrily calling for his crucifixion.  As many times as we’ve heard the story I can’t even begin to fathom of how Jesus – the one who was and is our teacher, our healer and our friend, the one who has brought light and life into the world – would be betrayed and abandoned and denied by those closest to him; or how he was so angrily – and easily (!) – mocked, beaten and condemned to a horrible death on a cross, a tortuous death reserved for the worst of criminals.  All this, and so much more than this, even as we all stand again at the foot of the cross, remembering his agony and suffering even as he spoke aloud to those who had condemned him, saying “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” [Luke 23:34]

It’s the journey we all share – the inevitable movement from Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday to Good Friday – but I don’t know about you, but as we draw ever nearer now to the cross there’s a question I cannot help but ask:  Where’s the shouting and praise now?  When did “hosanna in the highest” become “crucify him?” And was I, am I, there “when they crucified my Lord?”  What happens when in my silence the stones shout out?

It’s a somber and difficult question, to be sure; but beloved, it’s an important one as today we consider who Jesus truly is and what even now he offers us.  I hoping you really heard the song we sang during the offertory, about how there “Ain’t No Rock Gonna Shout for Me,” because not only is it a great old spiritual, but the words of the chorus say it all:  “Rocks, keep silent!  Jesus comes to set me free.  Rocks, keep silent! I’m gonna shout in victory!  Rocks, keep silent! Jesus reigns in majesty.  Ain’t no rock gonna shout for me.”  It’s a song that not only reminds us on this day of days who Jesus is and what he came to do, but it also tells us that if we fail to give him our praises, if we turn away from him in his hour of need, if we deny him not only with our words but by our lives then all that will be left is the sound of the stones shouting in our place; each and all bearing witness to our silence amidst sin and despair.

Beloved, on this day of all days, as disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ we cannot stay silent.  We cannot let our praises go unsung!  Because, if I might quote Theodore Wardlaw’s words one more time, this isn’t “pollyanna praise, it’s not pie-in-the-sky praise, not whistling past the graveyard praise, not something sweet place among us just to make the world more beautiful praise.  It’s praise  that instead gives us vision, that enables us to see the world more clearly,” and it’s praise that reminds us that in the name of the one whose name we praise we are rescued, we are forgiven, we are redeemed and we are made alive, now and forever.

Ain’t no rock gonna shout that for me! How could it ever?

We are not meant to be silent, beloved… we are meant to sing and to shout and to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus our Christ!  It’s as simple and as profound and, as we stand beneath the cross of Jesus, as agonizing as that.

So… let our praises be heard!  And as Paul proclaimed in joy and praise, let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God… humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross… so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the eart, and every tongue” – every tongue (!) – “should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2019 Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2019 in Holy Week, Jesus, Lent, Sermon

 

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Is There Hope?

(a sermon for April 1, 2018,  Easter Sunday; based on 1 Peter 1:3-9 and John 20:1-18)

Somewhere in the midst of all the busyness of this past week I did the math and discovered that as of this morning I have had the joy and privilege of standing in a pulpit somewhere and preaching the gospel on 34 (!) Easter Sundays!  Now, not only did that suddenly make me profoundly aware of the passage of time, it also got me to thinking about how no matter what I happen to plan or do for today, there will always be much about our Easter Sunday worship and celebration that’s “a given.”

For instance, it’s usually a given there’s going to be some kind of sunrise service in the “wee hours” of the morning (some years more “wee” than others!) when we’ll huddle together in the cold and try to reach the high notes of “Up From the Grave He Arose!”  I also know that there’s going to be plenty of joy and exuberance in our worshipping together; that there will be lots of upbeat music and inspired hymn-singing; and a great many “alleluias” shouted and sung throughout the day.  Also it’s pretty much a given that come Easter Sunday there will be beautiful and fragrant flowers spread throughout the sanctuary; that there will be a whole bunch of children running around in their new clothes, having perhaps already partaken of Easter candy and yet very ready to go out and hunt for some eggs after church!

But perhaps the best “given” of all is that you’re all here, and that’s a wonderful thing indeed; because what better day for us all to come together to worship and praise God than this one?  Because this is the Day of Resurrection;  and everything about it, from choir anthems to unison prayers to the fellowship we share, just bursts forth with triumphant joy!   Christ is risen indeed, and that shatters the commonplace of our lives; truly, worship becomes celebration!  In the best possible sense, friends, so much about our coming together today has to do with raucous, noisy, triumphant celebration; and praise God for it!

Which makes it all the more interesting that as we finally settle in to hearing the gospel reading for this Easter Sunday, what we encounter there is not so much an air of triumphant celebration as it is the darkness just before the dawn, an atmosphere of what the Old Testament often refers to as a “deep, crushing silence,” and also, it’s important to note… a lingering sense of hopelessness!

For you see, it’s important to realize that there were no trumpets blaring early on that morning “while it was still dark;” nothing at all victorious about Mary Magdalene drawing near to the tomb where Jesus has been buried.  All Mary knew in that moment was the enveloping quiet and the heaviness of her heart and soul.  This was, in every sense of the word, a funeral processional, a silent walk of death; for Jesus of Nazareth was gone.

Remember, Mary had been there with Jesus from the very beginnings of his ministry, and she’d seen and experienced it all: bodies healed, eyes given sight, countless lives made new simply because of his presence.  She’d seen the throngs of people clamoring around him to glean even the smallest bit of his teaching; and yes, she’d also seen the rulers and leaders who were perplexed and threatened by him.  And later on, with the other women beside her, she’d stood by helplessly as Jesus hung on the cross to die; and it was then that her own heart was broken.

Only a few days before, there’d been so much rejoicing, so much praising and so much hope; it had seemed like every one of their hopes for life, for living, and forever had come to fruition in this man who had become their master, teacher and friend.  But that was all over because now Jesus was dead; and not just dead, mind you, but crucified, hastily brought down from that tool of execution and placed in a borrowed tomb without even the dignity of a proper burial.  Whatever else was going on deep within Mary’s soul as she approached the tomb, one thing was for certain: any kind of hope she’d ever had was gone forever.  All that remained now was to anoint Jesus’ body with burial spices and that would be the end of it.

The truth is, I suspect that there are probably some of us here today who can understand that kind of hopelessness; who know what it means to have sadness, disappointment and emptiness be the prominent emotions of life and living.  As the late Rev. Dr. William Self once wrote, “We all have our days when we stand with our dreams in shambles around our feet.  Our children go astray.  We get the pink slip from our employer, or worse still, the test comes back from the lab as positive.”  These are the times when everything we’ve ever wanted, worked on, sacrificed over and hoped for simply, in whatever circumstance and for whatever reason… falls apart!  It doesn’t matter how good, or how faithful you’ve been in your life and it has nothing to do with what’s fair or just!  As Self concludes, “If you have blood in your veins and skin on your bones, you will have some darkness.”  And sometimes in that place of darkness, all you think of to ask is, “Is there any hope at all?”

Well, that’s what happened to Mary Magdalene.  What’s interesting is that as John tells this story, even after Mary had discovered that “the stone had been removed from the tomb;” even after Simon Peter and “the other disciple” ran to investigate and saw “the linen wrappings lying there;” even after that other disciple “saw and believed;” and even when she herself “bent over to look into the tomb” to find “two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying,” all this time Mary is still weeping!  But this we can understand as well; for hopelessness is not something that is so easily disposed of, especially when it goes hand in hand with death.  We all know about the fragility of human life, and of death’s irretrievable finality; and so we also understand that at some point that reality of it must be accepted.

So it just follows that as she was sitting there in the garden, Mary’s heart had to have been reeling from grief and loss.  Remember, at this point she’s still wondering if in the night someone had come and stolen Jesus’ body, which would have been the final indignity to be heaped upon this man that she loved; so there would most certainly have been some panic and even anger mingled in with the grief!  There was no way that Mary would even begin to comprehend or even entertain the notion that this was anything more than what it appeared; any potential evidence to the contrary, Mary was not about to pin her hopes on an empty tomb!

But here’s the thing: though Mary was still weeping, though the disciples had gone home to ponder what they may have seen at the empty tomb, and though as far as all of creation was concerned death was still the one hard and fast reality of life, something amazing had already happened: death had been vanquished forever!  The tomb was empty, for Jesus had risen from the dead; and by his resurrection, God gave his people not only the gift of new life in the present, but also the promise of salvation and an eternal home.  In this moment when any and all hope seemed to be gone forever, now in the risen Christ there is hope unending!  It’s truly redemption and salvation on a cosmic scale; but even in that moment of victory there is still one thing that remains.

Mary.

In looking at this text, David Lose makes the very interesting point that “the space between ‘woman’ and ‘Mary’ is perhaps the distance between the cross and resurrection.”  Remember that at first, “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’” and Mary, supposing him to be the gardener (and perhaps even thinking him complicit in the robbery of Jesus’ grave), fails to recognize him even when they’re standing face to face.  It’s only when Jesus calls Mary by her name that she recognizes him as “Rabbouni,” that is, her beloved Lord and teacher.  It’s the fact that Jesus knows Mary and reaches out to her personally that ends up making all the difference in her belief and understanding of what’s taken place.  As Lose puts it, “Known, [Mary] knows.  Seen, she can see.  Loved, she loves… and then [she] goes and tells [the others] what she has seen, known and loved.”

And once again on this Day of Resurrection, we rightly proclaim it a wonder, a miracle, and a sure cause for celebration with songs of triumph and shouts of joy; and that it is!  But it’s also an affirmation of how God always works, isn’t it?  In the end, you see, it’s not in pursuing God’s favor that we earn righteousness or that we’re given salvation; it’s that God pursued us in the person of Jesus Christ, that he went to the cross and died for us, and that then was raised from the dead so that by grace we could be given life abundant and eternal.    Moreover, it’s not mere wishful thinking, nor the passing hopes and dreams that we build up for ourselves that offers us security for the living of these days; it’s rather the unending hope that comes in knowing that in our most difficult and seemingly hopeless situations God is working specifically and directly on our behalf, yours and mine; bringing much needed light into our darkness.  And it’s not – and this is important, friends (!) – merely a one-time only historical event that happened some 2,000 years ago; but rather it’s the divine experience of rebirth that happens again and again in the hearts of those who have been named and claimed by the one, as 1 Peter proclaims it, who “by his great mercy… has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.”  Beloved, the good news of Easter is that there’s always hope; because Jesus is risen from the dead; and because Jesus is alive, so are we, now and forever!

I said to you earlier that as a pastor I’ve been in the pulpit for 34 Easter Sundays; what I didn’t say is that there was, in fact, one particular and very memorable Easter that I wasn’t.  As I’m sure I’ve shared with some of you before, that was the year that I had to undergo emergency back surgery: I’d had some spinal disc issues that were causing me incredible pain and were getting much worse during Holy Week; moreover, the doctors were concerned for complications and even possible paralysis if something wasn’t done soon.  So I was told that if I had a “Plan B” for worship on Easter Sunday morning, I’d better put it into action because my surgery was being scheduled for the same hour as Sunrise Service the next morning!

And I’ll be honest; even in the pain I was in, for this particular pastor, that was a hard thing (I’ll let you in on a little secret; we clergy types can be a little possessive about our Sunday morning worship, especially on Easter!).  But I really didn’t have a choice; and so while I was under the knife Lisa and Jake, along with a layperson from the church, took care of the sunrise service; and our choir director, who was in seminary at the time, learned how to preach an Easter sermon on the fly!  Everything went fine, for the church and for me, as it did for the next few weeks as I recovered; and I mention it to you this morning because along the way I did learn something that I shared with everyone who asked me: that “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” whether I show up for worship or not!

But it also served as a good reminder that Easter cannot and will not be contained… by a day, by a service, an certainly not by a pastor… or anybody else!  It can’t be hemmed in by any of the limits or boundaries we set upon it, and it won’t be diminished by our doubts!  Friends, Easter won’t be over when in a few moments we pronounce a Benediction, nor will it be finished later today after dinner is done and the family’s all gone home for the evening.  It won’t even be over when you get up tomorrow on “Easter Monday” and return to the busyness of a new week and all the challenges it will bring.  Easter continues…today, tomorrow and in every day that comes; and resurrection happens for you and for me as we move through this new and abundant life that our Lord has given us.  Christ is risen, beloved, and by the power of his resurrection we are given all the hope we need to live full, empowered and purpose driven lives.

It’s Resurrection Day, beloved, and the future is wide open; so let us rejoice and be glad in all the possibilities before, and of this life that God has given us…

… for Christ is risen!  He is Risen Indeed!

Alleluia, thanks be to God, and AMEN!

c. 2018  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 
 

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