Different Yet the Same
Sunday, April 12
Pastor Mark Aune
Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen
For 30 years, at the 7 am sunrise Easter service, I’ve been greeted by the same parishioner with the same words; “He is risen.” And for 30 years I’ve responded with, “He is risen indeed.”
This is one of many things I am missing this morning. I am realizing it is much more than a personal greeting on Easter morning. It has become for me a liturgy of praise that marks the beginning of a morning filled with glorious hymns and music, large crowds of hope filled worshippers, families together, Easter dresses and even a few Easter bonnets.
The pews are full. The mood is festive. You can feel the power and the promise of the resurrection that comes with the good news of the empty tomb in the gathered community.
And for anyone who has walked or is currently walking the road of grief because of the death of a loved one, Easter Sunday takes on new meaning. The sting of death is still there but the light of Easter dims the pain and gives hope to the heavy heart.
Like all of you I am missing worship in the sanctuary this morning. The feelings I am having are probably like yours. The stay at home order due to the pandemic is forcing me to examine what I am focused on this morning.
Is it the music, the large crowds, the Easter lilies? Even the family gatherings for food and community are gone and you are experiencing Easter worship through a computer monitor.
With all the trappings taken away, when what we are used to and most comfortable with is not available to us this year, perhaps God is giving us a new and different awareness of Easter morning.
On the first Easter morning the women make their way to the tomb.
They are anxious, they are alone and they walk in darkness.
We walk with them. We understand.
They bring spices.
They have a plan to anoint the body of Jesus.
Even in death, in their grief, they make plans. Who will roll away the stone they ask, for it is quite large?
They have a pretty clear expectation of what they will find when they get to the tomb.
I don’t think they expected the unexpected as they went to the burial place of Jesus. When they saw Jesus die, they didn’t expect to see him again.
But God is constantly telling us – expect the unexpected. Do not be afraid or surprised at what I can do.
So as they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 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.”
When nothing is normal. When all that is familiar, comfortable, safe and secure is stripped away and we literally cannot see how it will end; how do we react? What do we do?
We go to the tomb and once more and again we find out the tomb is empty.
We hear once more and again that God has done the unexpected in raising Jesus from the dead.
This is Easter.
- This is the message.
- This is what matters.
- A virus cannot silence this message.
- Social distancing cannot silence this message.
- Fear and uncertainty cannot and will not silence this message.
I love the honesty of Mark’s story. He ends it by telling us the women flee from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
And this doesn’t silence the message either.
They must have eventually told the story of what they witnessed.
They remembered the words of the angel sitting in the empty tomb. 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.
These are words we need to remember.
This is promise that shapes our future and gives us hope.
He has already gone into death and fear for us – and we know he goes ahead of us in our own fear, in our own death.
Wherever you are in this moment, whatever you are doing, no matter your fears, Jesus is ahead of you and you will see Him.
He will be there because He is alive. He has been raised.
He destroyed death.
His power, the power of the resurrection is in you.
It is a work in you and through your life.
This is what matters.
This is Easter.
Thanks be to God. Amen