April 12, 2020 Vesper
Easter Vesper Meditation
He Is Risen! That is the glorious news of this day. Let me again, from the 20th Chapter of John, share the events of that day.
I don’t know about you, but what this Easter has done for me is to refocus my thoughts on what is really important. Of course, as a pastor, I know the message of the resurrection is central to all we do but I confess that all the Easter preparations I am usually involved in keep me from taking as much time as I should to meditate on the meaning of Easter. After all, I usually have two services to get ready for, working with the music team about special music, making sure we have enough bulletins, ushers, child care workers, and food… you get the idea. And then when that is done it is home to family and food and then a long nap and by evening my brain is kind of a mush so I usually end up vegging out on the couch and watching a movie. But not this year. I went outside early in the morning and listened to the birds welcoming the coming day and thought of how they must have sung their hearts out in the garden that first Easter. I worshiped online and in the afternoon spent some time contemplating anew the message of this day. In many ways today was one of the most “Holy” Easters I have experience. So, in some odd way, I give thanks for what COVID 19 has taken from me this day. What about you, can you find blessings in the Easter you celebrated instead of the Easter you wanted?
But even more, I want to spend a few moments thinking again about those heroic women. We left them on Friday observing where Jesus’ lifeless body had been laid. They would have gone back to where they were staying and observed the Sabbath. At sundown, on Saturday they would have gotten busy gathering the spices needed to complete the embalming process. Stores in Jerusalem, even to this day, open after sunset on Saturday for a few hours so people can purchase necessary items. The women probably spent most of the night mixing the spices together, finding cloth for the burial windings and taking care of other details. Then they set out, just before daybreak, you know that time, the sun is not quite up but the sky has brightened enough that you can get around without a light, and headed for the tomb. They were a people on a mission. Now how they thought they could roll back the large stone, we don’t know. One of the gospels says that they even discussed it. Perhaps they had gotten a couple of the disciples to agree to come later in the morning. Arriving at the tomb they find everything has changed. The stone is rolled back and two angels pronounce the good news he is risen? All those earlier preparations were meaningless in the light of this message.
We, like the women, sometimes spend much time and effort worrying about and planning for things that do not happen. This is not against prudent planning but we need to plan with the understanding that God might already be doing a new thing. I had spent much time planning for today, but those plans evaporated as I learned a whole new set of skills to help us all celebrate.
So part of the message of this day is to be open to what God is doing instead of holding on to what you think should happen. Easter means we worship a God full of surprises, always doing a new thing, moving us forward into new life.
The women were commanded to go and tell. They were the first to share the good news of the resurrection. They were to let the disciples know that death does not have the final word. Their beloved teacher was alive!
We too are called to share a message of life and possibility. Right now we live in a world full of endings. People have lost jobs, people are quarantined, businesses are shuttered, and in some places, hospitals are overflowing and each night we hear how many have died. It is easy to get into a negative downward spiral of thinking where all you focus upon is loss and endings. Instead, we need to remember God is with us. We will get through this. Let’s think of some of the things we have gained. We have all learned new technology skills. We have a new appreciation for some of the people who take care of us like the people at the grocery store. We will never again take for granted those wonderful times of gathering with friends and family to eat together. We are leaning forward into new life. May we be agents of positivity in the weeks to come praising the new instead of bemoaning what was.
I have a dear friend in Australia. She sent me an email this morning to wish me a Happy Easter and to thank me for my sermon. See, my message is going around the world! I love what she wrote at the end: “There is before the COVID and there will an after the COVID, there was a before the Crucifixion and there was an ‘after the crucifixion’ – the COVID stone too will be rolled away.” That is the hope and promise of this day.
All of us have experienced endings since last Easter. Some have lost beloved spouses or family members. For me, it was the death of my mother. But we remember the worst thing is never the last thing. God is with us. God gives us hope and life. We are promised eternal life. Do I believe it? I have bet my eternal life on it.
Before I pray Jenny wants to join me in sharing a greeting:
Let us pray: God of life and possibility pour out your spirit upon us. May we, when we face tombs of death and of loss, remember you offer us hope and life. Be with us and walk beside us. May we be your Easter people. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.