Easter - Don’t WorryHope is unlocked because the resurrection cannot be contained
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Easter – Don’t Worry
It feels a little different to say Happy Easter this morning, and we’ve got to admit that from the start.
And yet, we have still gathered together today in a way unlike ever before to celebrate the promise that is resurrection. Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed.
On this unconventional Easter morning, we’re likely to identify with the Easter story in a new way, maybe in a way we’ve never thought about it before. Because after Jesus’ death, the disciples were filled with fear, they were afraid, they too were locked away with worries and anxieties and doubts. Everything that they knew, the life that they had given themselves to, had disappeared. But what do we know about that?
After everything that the followers of Christ had been through, they must have wondered to themselves, “Are things every going to be OK again?”
I don’t know what you are facing this moment, I know we, just like those first followers of Jesus, find ourselves locked away with questions and worries, and yet, whatever you are facing, I want you to know that there is hope.
Easer reminds us that the resurrected Christ brings joy and peace and justice and grace to us even when we find ourselves closed behind fear and helplessness.
Today, hope is unlocked, so may we open ourselves to this hope now, and always.
I’d invite you to join with me in a call to worship, and after I speak, I’d invite you to respond saying: Christ is risen!
This year, Easter is different. Even so…
Christ is risen!
We long to be together. Even so…
Christ is risen!
While we are apart, we are in this together.
Christ is risen!
Beauty, joy, love, passion, and justice cannot be canceled.
Christ is risen!
The Spirit of Life cannot be contained.
Christ is risen!
Let us pray,
Holy One, you tell us that there is an everlasting love that will never let us or anyone else go. When our days are filled with isolation, and our nights abound with questions and concerns, unlock hope within our hearts. When we feel closed in by fear, in our greatest pain, in our heaviest grief, open our hearts and minds to your hope that cannot be contained. Give us faith, O God, to trust that your Spirit is at work, even now, for resurrection continues to unfold around us and within us. Amen.
Together we are continuing to learn from the wisdom of the Sermon on the Mount, and our reading Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus says:
“Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly [God] feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith? Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly [God] knows that you need them. Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
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If you’ve been around Grace as long as I’ve been preaching here, you know that I have a few odd habits. In addition to my appreciation for true crime and professional wrestling, over the past few weeks I’ve started to watch ‘Doomsday Preppers” on Netflix. It’s great because I can watch it and imagine what my life would have been like if I started panicking before it was cool.
One of the unique things about the show ‘Doomsday Preppers’ is that after everyone on the show tell you how they are preparing for the end of the world, their level of preparedness is graded and if they don’t get an A+, 10 out of 10 grade, they quickly come up with some explanation about why the experts are wrong.
I wonder how those folks are doing right now.
The people on ‘Doomsday Preppers’ have dedicated themselves to worst-case-scenario planning and here we are. Is this their dream or their nightmare? Are they happy that they worried so much and for so long? Have their worries made them any safer than the rest of us?
In our reading this morning, Jesus says, “don’t worry about your life” and part of me wants to say back, “you can’t be serious.”
Worry sometimes feels like a tangled string of Christmas lights. We tell ourselves that it should be easy to get everything unraveled but as we try to pull things apart sometimes we find ourselves in a bigger knot.
And yet, Jesus asks us, more than that, Jesus commands us, “don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly [God] feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you”.
The Sermon on the Mount builds and develops on itself. This isn’t a meandering sermon where Jesus jumps from one topic to another. If you were with us last week, you’ll remember that we examined what it means to see the world with eyes full of light. Jesus tells us that since we are blessed when we are poor in spirit, since we are empowered and entrusted to live as salt and light, since we are to see everyone as our siblings in God, it’s not just that we start to live in a new way, we also see ourselves and one another in a new way. Because we are a people that know and trust in God’s goodness and abundance, we don’t live with scarcity, we don’t cling and claw our way through this life, rather, we seek to be perfect in love as God is perfect in love.
Last week as we looked at what Jesus said about how we see ourselves and one another, we also heard Jesus say that we cannot serve God and money. If you look carefully at what Jesus says, Jesus never says that money in and of itself is evil, or bad, or wrong. The point that Jesus is making isn’t that wealth is immoral, Jesus is saying that if we seek pursuit of wealth and money and make that our master, our Lord, or goal in life, we will be lost.
This morning, Jesus tells us why the money is a poor master, because if all we seek is more and more and more we can believe that there is less and less and less to go around.
If we are not careful, when it comes to how much we need, the answer will always become just a little bit more.
Love operates from a different sort of economy. Love is not stockpiled, it is not hoarded, love is freely shared. When we live into this love, this abundance, we live into what Jesus calls the kin-dom of God, the family of God, the care and community of God, don’t worry becomes an actual option for us and we know what it means for hope to be unlocked.
Jesus dies on the cross not to balance some cosmic account of our sins. If we are tracking and counting wrongs vs rights we aren’t living into love. With love their is no score card, there is no I did this for you so you must do this for me.
Jesus died on the cross because those in power were so invested in their world of scarcity that God’s abundance was terrifying. How could they cling to what they had if everything was God’s to share? How could they justify their exclusion if God’s love includes and welcomes everyone?
Rather than living into this great love, scarcity and fear Christ was crucified, but God doesn’t operate from fear or lack, only love. In response to the cross, God resurrects, God creates again and again and again, giving life even to the dead.
This is the hope that Jesus invites us to live into – resurrection.
Easter blooms with our wildest hopes in the face of our most withering doubts.
Today the tomb is as empty as our sanctuary because the hope that resurrection has unlocked cannot be contained. What seems empty at first is actually abounding with joy and love and peace for us and for everything because God says fear never gets the last word.
In the Gospel of John it’s written,“Early 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.” All the Gospel writers tell us that women were the first to arrive to the tomb, the first to announce the resurrection, because church ladies are always the first to get what needs to be done, done.
When Mary first arrives at the tomb she is weeping, she is afraid that the stone has been rolled away and she assumes all is lost. In this moment, it’s not enough that Jesus is dead, now she can’t even grieve properly.
As Mary is weeping, she sees someone and assumes they are the gardner. Mary says to them, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him…because I am in no mood this morning” Somehow the second half of that sentence missed the final edits in the New Testament.
Mary doesn’t recognize that the gardener that stands before her is Jesus until he calls her by name.
Resurrection is transformative, it creates anew, which is not simply resuscitation.
With resuscitation things can go back to how they used to be but resurrection is transformation, it’s renewal, it’s the new creation that springs forth from within us and all around us.
What this means for us is that if we are struggling, anxious, worried, feeling isolated or alone, what we will experience is not resuscitation, we will not always fall back into those feelings because fear and worry will not last forever.
For this to happen, for resurrection to take hold, something has to die. Anxiety is replaced with hope, fear is replaced with grace, and our worries are replaced with love because God is making all things new.
We see this when a seed turns into a flower or a caterpillar turns into a butterfly or a tadpole turns into a frog. Each turns into a new thing, metamorphosed into a transformed life. They are not resuscitated into what they once were.
If you look at the chrysalis of a butterfly, what you find is an empty tomb. The caterpillar is gone and now the butterfly lives. Caterpillars crawl while butterflies float. Butterflies know what it means to share their beauty by not resuscitating their old ways but resurrecting into new ways.
When Mary recognizes Jesus she goes to give him a hug and he says something kind of strange to her, Jesus says, “Don’t hold on to me…”
Jesus has to practice social distancing too, but there is something more going on here.
Mary realizes that Jesus is here, he’s back, death does not have the last word, love wins, so she goes to embrace him, and Jesus says, “Don’t hold on to me…”
Jesus says don’t hold onto me because Mary assumes that things can go back to how they used to be, back to the good ol’ days but that isn’t what Jesus has in mind. Resurrection isn’t about the past, it’s not about how things once were, resurrection is about the eternal life that begins now, it’s about a fresh start that makes us new.
Resurrection is the hope, the promise, that everything broken, everything estranged, anything that belittles, or dehumanizes, or demeans, no matter how troubling or painful, it is, ultimately, temporary.
Yes, there will be hurts, yes, like Jesus we will face betrayal, misunderstandings, and loss, and, like Jesus, we will be resurrected and renewed. If betrayal can’t stop us, if misunderstandings can’t stop us, if the cross can’t stop us, than nothing can.
I know things can make us feel lonely, I know we have reasons to fear, but hope is resurrected today. Evil, injustice, fear, anxiety, does not get the last word, love will always win.
If you can survive being people being angry, being misunderstood, being betrayed, beaten, if you can endure the cross, one of the worst ways to die imaginable, if that can’t stop you, if you can come back from all that, you know what it means to be fearless.
There are times when life is brimming with grace, and love, and hope, and forgiveness, life even seems…holy – moments that remind us that some divinity, some power, that God is holding everything together.
Those moments of fulfillment and grace, those moments of goodness and justice, and joy, they are not a random escape from this life, they are a sign, a promise, a preview of what should be, of what will be, because resurrection is making all things new.
Resurrection didn’t just happen, it happens every time we live the good news, every time we show others how much they are loved, every time we say that’s not our problem and make it our responsibility, every time we, with God, don’t merely resuscitate our old ways, but are transformed into a new creation, like the caterpillar resurrects into the butterfly.
Resurrection is a vibrant victory because yes, in this life you may be misunderstood, you might be betrayed, you might feel like everything is lost, but that loss, that death, does not have the last word because Christ has gone into the darkness and shined a light that will not be overtaken. Resurrection is always right around the corner, greeting us in our lowest place because we know that this is not the end, it’s a new beginning.
Hope is unlocked because the resurrection cannot be contained. We are Easter people, because the earth is not a cold dead place, we are Easter people because life is filled with potential and possibility, we are Easter people because love wins, we are Easter people because the worst day is never the last day and as Easter people may our lives be proof of the resurrection.
Let us pray:
Risen Christ, we come today trusting in the power of your love. Like Mary when she found the stone rolled away, we find unimaginable things unfolding before us. Together we lift up those who walk alone and confused through the darkness of anxiety, illness and death.
Like the disciples who ran toward the tomb, our minds race toward anything that might bring us hope. Together we lift up those who labor on our behalf to find answers, make decisions, and offer responses in our communities. Grief-stricken like Mary crying out to the Gardener, we weep in exhaustion and beg for help. Together we lift up those who care for the sick, who walk with the grieving, and who offer essential services for us all.
Like Mary reaching toward Jesus, we grasp for security, and find it elusive. Today we lift up those who face the insecurity of lost jobs, closed businesses, and financial distress. Lord in your mercy, unlock hope within our hearts today. Do for us what you did for Mary and the disciples: Open our eyes to see that you are with us; open our ears to hear you calling us by name; and turn our hearts toward others, that we might share the good news of your resurrecting and redeeming love. All this we pray as you taught us to pray, saying…
Thank you for being with us this morning at Grace. If you are one of our members and have pledged to support the work of our church, one of the best ways that you can give is online at gracedesmoines.org If you are not one of our members but want to support the work that Grace is doing in our community, the best way that you can financially support Grace is by giving online at gracedesmoines.org. You can always send a check to the church too, our mailing address is 3700 Cottage Grove, Des Moines, IA, 50311.
As we’ve said each week we’ve been apart, your financial support continues to make our church possible, especially now, but the support that you give to one another, the offerings of your prayers, cards that you send, calls that you make, the offerings of your love and care is the resurrection in action, so may we continue to unlock hope every way that we can.
To end the service this morning, we’re going to join with a global choir singing, Christ the Lord is Risen today, because we’re not alone, we are in this together, and together we are celebrating the goodness and grace of God that will never let us go.
April 13 -18
Click on the day to expand the guide.
Read – John 20:1-16
Notice – Mary went to the tomb “while it was still dark.” She clearly didn’t expect to find Jesus alive, but in love and devotion she was eager to care for his body as soon as possible. (Jewiish customs and laws forbade that on the Sabbath.) How can you nurture a desire to go go Jesus, even in time of despair and darkness? What practices and choices can build you a “first name” relationship with Jesus a link between you heart and his?
Pray – Jesus, if my attention strays and I don’t recognize you, please call me by name and draw me again into a saving connection with you as my risen Savior. Amen.
Read – John 20:19-23
Notice – Everything the disciples had believed seemed lost, Jesus, their leader and would-be Messiah was dead, and now his body was missing. The disciples hid, afraid the Jewish authorities would come after them next. But no one had stolen Jesus’ body. He was still their Messiah, in ways that reached beyond their wildest dreams. “Jesus…stood among them”–it was really him,alive, and they were filled with joy. He gave them his peace, his purpose (“As the Father sent me, so I am sending you”), and his power (“Receive the Holy Spirit”). John kept including clues to remind his readers of the creation storires in Genesis 1-3. After Jesus commissioned the disciples in verse 21, “he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'”–a clear echo of Genesis 2:7. How has Jesus breathed new hope and purpose–new life–into you? In what ways can you tangibly bring peace and wholeness to those around you today?
Pray – Jesus, I do not want to live a life that just goes through the motions. I ask that today, and every day, you will breathe your eternal life into me, empowering me to live the life that is truly life. Amen.
Read – John 20:24-29
Notice – On Sunday evening Jesus appeared to the hiding, frightened disciples and said “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). When Jesus “showed them his hands and his side” (verse 20), they believed he was alive, Thomas was not with them, and wouldn’t take their word for it. Eight days later, Jesus showed himself to Thomas. As it did for Mary in the garden, the presence of his clearly-alive Lord overcame all of Thomas’ doubt. In verse 29, Jesus said, “Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” This was not to shame Thomas, but to encourage all future believers. We cannot see Jesus the way the disciples did, but we can see Jesus working through others, and “hear” him speak to our hearts as we read the Bible and sense his impact on our lives. Where have you see Jesus at work lately? How can you help someone else see him?
Pray – Jesus, speak to me and through me. Give me a heart sensitive to your prescnce and attuned to listen to and share your inner voice. Amen.
Read – Isaiah 2:2-4, 11:6-9, 65:17-19
Notice – In Isaiah’s day, conflict between the dominant Assyrian Empire and the military power of Egypt was a constant threat to Israel. (Like them, we at time feel as though we live with the trreat of violence.” Isaiah’s God-given vision was not of one power wiping out the others, but of swords made into plowshares. Patricia Tull clarified the meaning of “swords into plowshares”; “For the nations seeking God’s ways, weapons will no longer be neciessary. These will instead be fashioned into tools for tending the earth and nurturing life.”* As centuries rolled by, and swords were still swords, God’s people realized their ultimate hope was in a world dramatically recreated by God’s redeeming power. What inner tendencies do you, and the communities of which you are a part, need to move beyond before weapons are no longer necessary?
Pray – Lord, let your peace reign more and more in my heart, in my life. And keep my hope and faith focused on the day when you again reign fully over our world, and violence and sadness give way to complete peace and harmony. Amen.
*Patricia K. Tull, study note on Isaiah 2:4 in The CEB Study Bible, Nashville: Abingdon Press, p. 1097 OT.
Read – Revelation 19:5-9, 21:1-6
Notice – Many people think Revelation is bleak and scary–but near its end, the vision pictured God’s restored world as a celebration. The vision rolled on to end in Paradise restored. With images from the prophet Isaiah as well as the Genesis creation stories, it showed the world as God meant it to be–no pain, suffering or death. In Revelation 22, “the one seated on the throne” made a resonant promise to our broken, hurting world: “I’m making all things new.” Do you trust that Jesus meant it when he promised to prepare a place for us so that we can be with him forever (cf. John 14:1-3)? Can you live in hope that, in the end, God will win?
Pray – Jesus, I yearn for the day when you will make all things new. Keep renewing me inside, empowering me to live with trust and hope in a world painfully short of both. Amen.
Read – Revelation 22:1-5, 17
Notice – “The name of the tree [of life] tells us its essential meaning: it is an image of eternal or undending life….being barred from the tree of life pictures the perfection and bliss that the human race lost through its sinfulness….if the tree of life is as image of loss and nostalgia to which we look back, it is also an image of hope to which the Bible looks forward. It reappears at the end of the Bible in the visions of Revelation….It is an image of immortality and eternal life in heaven, a reward for those who have their robes washed in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 22:14).”* What do you most look forward to when God makes all things new? When you read, “Let the one who is thirsty come! Let the one who wishes receive life-giving water as a gift” (Revelation 22:17), have you said “yes” to that invitation?
Pray – Jesus, this world makes me thirst for your life-giving water, and hunger for the healing fruit from the Tree of Life. Thank you for rising from the dead, promising me that I will not have to hunger and thirst forever. Amen.
*Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III, general editors, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998, p. 889-890.